RiktheRed21

War's End

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RiktheRed21    38

Brinnea sat still and silent in the dimly lit hallway of her apartment in the floating city of Dalaran. Thanks to her sister-in-law Esmerra’s support, she was able to afford the place to house her father, and her daughter. There was enough room for four people to live there comfortably. Brin suspected Esmerra had picked the place specifically to push Brinnea and her husband, Parigan, to try living as a family for the first time since Gilneas. But Parigan had left, unable to subject his daughter to the knowledge of what her father had become. An undead could not be a father to a human child. Before he departed, he promised Brinnea he would send all the money he earned to help raise their Charlotte, and he had lived up to that promise. Brinnea hated the thought of separating from one another after finally being reunited. Yet she stayed to watch over Charlotte. She wanted to try. To be the mother she had dreamed of being for almost six years.

She listened to the sound of her father’s soothing voice as he read to Charlotte before bed. Memories flew past, raining down on her mind like arrows on a battlefield. Torven, her father, had once read to her as a child as well. Her earliest memories were of the stories he used to read by the side of her bed every night. Tales of knights, wizards, dragons, and heroism. She always wanted to be a hero like in the stories, like she believed her father to be. But he had disappointed her back then. He had more than made up for his mistakes since then, yet she could not shake the worry she had for her daughter. But she couldn’t make herself enter that room.

After a long time sitting and listening, the voices stopped, and the door to the bedroom opened. Torven walked out, his aged face gaunt but happy. He had become considerably more joyful since Brinnea had asked him to watch after Charlotte for her. He’d lost his chance to take care of his girls years ago, and had always tried to make up for it since. As soon as he laid eyes on Brin, however, his smile faded. He walked over to her and took a seat beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“I know it’s hard,” he said quietly, “But you are her mother, no matter what. She is a bright child, you know. She knows you’re different from her, but she still knows who you are.”

Brinnea cast her icy blue gaze on her father’s rugged face. His wrinkles were more defined than in years past, and his brown hair was streaked with silver. His calm grey eyes regarded her warmly. “She doesn’t. And you don’t, either.” She broke her gaze with him and looked down at the floor. “I don’t know if I can keep her safe.”

“Of course you can,” her father replied, “As long as you’re here, nothing can harm her. You’d never allow it.”

Brinnea brushed his hand off her shoulder and stood suddenly, turning to walk away. Torven stood and moved to follow her, but she stopped, saying, “It isn’t just the things out there. I don’t trust myself anymore. Not after everything that’s happened. My blackouts, the bloodthirst…”

Torven stepped closer, reaching to grab her shoulder again, but she pulled away. He replied, “You can control it.”

“I can’t. I couldn’t before, and I can’t now.”

“Then we can help you. With Esmerra’s resources, and the people I know, surely we can do something!”

“No!” she insisted with a harsh whisper. “Her resources are nit unlimited, and they are better spent keeping her safe. And you must stay here to watch over her. I have to go.”

Torven’s eyes widened, and he spread his hands wide in a beseeching manner. “You can’t leave now, you just found her! How could you bring yourself to take away the only parent she has?”

Brinnea turned to face him, now stern and direct. “I must go, father. There is only one person I trust to help with this. If I am ever to be a mother for that child, I must find a way to pacify my need to kill, and I must overcome whatever darkness lurks in my mind. Only the Empire would ever understand and offer help. There is no one else.”

Her father rubbed his head with both hands, at a loss. “I know I can’t stop you. I think it is a mistake, leaving again. But I will do what you ask. Charlotte will be safe with me, I swear it. But…you have to talk to Parigan.”

Brinnea paused for a moment, before replying, “He won’t come to see her. He isn’t ready to try.”

“Even if he’s in the city, I’ll feel better about you going. Charlotte needs a parent around for her, not just her grandfather.”

“Very well, I’ll talk to him.”

 

 

Brinnea came across Parigan as he departed from the Darkmoon Fairgrounds. He seemed surprised to see her, but his guard was down more than she was used to. He was more relaxed and at ease with his surroundings. She had a hand on her sword hilt, looking around at the familiar environment. As he approached, she said, “The last time I was here, Accalia nearly tore me in half. Yet the party still goes on.” She gazed around at the festivities, the fireworks, and listened to the shouts of delight and excitement.

Parigan stood at her side, similarly glancing around. “You hear all the talk about the Legion’s return? Evidently some Dreadlords ran amok recently, spouting off about an invasion within the year. They had a map marking the Broken Isles.”

Brinnea took the news in stride, though it troubled her some. She replied, not allowing her face or voice to be disturbed, “I’ve heard only a whisper here or there. At least, until just this week. Magni Bronzebeard awoke from his slumber, and news is traveling fast of what he saw in his dreams. Azeroth in flames. Demons raining from the sky. I’d wager the world is in for more hurting soon. But…that’s not exactly why I’m here.”

Parigan cast his one eye on her, studying her face. He could tell sometimes when something bothered her, even when her face was void of all expression. He had a talent for reading people, or reading her, at least. “It’s about Charlotte,” he said, rather than asked.

“I want you to go to Dalaran. I have something I need to take care of, and it shouldn’t take long. At most I’d be gone two months, maybe three. But hopefully not that long.” By the look on Parigan’s face, Brin figured he didn’t like her request much.

“I can’t be boxed up in Dalaran that long. I have to keep my eye on the Grim, and they don’t always meet there. If I’m not watching our backs on Horde-side, then what good am I?”

“You aren’t just a warrior, Pari,” Brinnea said, “You are a father. You have to keep Charlotte safe; that is the priority. If the Grim were still looking for us, you would know by now.”

Parigan clenched his fist. He sighed, exasperated. “Fine. I’ll find a place to hole up in town—,”

“You can stay at the apartment. She understands what we are, Pari. You have to talk to her.”

He bared his teeth. “I’m not ready, ok? I will find a place.” He looked away, as if he were ready to storm off. Before he did anything, he turned back, asking, “What the hell are you doing for two or three months, anyhow?”

Brinnea looked him in the eye. She was determined not to reveal anything. She kept her face and voice as level and calm as possible. Yet, when she said, “Some errands, stuff to get the new place set up,” she could tell he knew she was lying.

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Edited by RiktheRed21

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RiktheRed21    38

In Dalaran, there have been murders, all committed on Alliance races. The Horde had only just recently been allowed entry to Dalaran following Jaina Proudmoore’s banishment of the Sunreavers and their allies. In the wake of the city’s re-opening, Parigan went to work ensuring it stayed that way. With the corpses of Alliance residents piling up, the streets became packed with rioters, all berating the Kirin Tor for their decision to allow the Horde back in.

The Horde-based mercenary group, Borrowed Time, extended an invitation for Parigan to join in their efforts to bait the killer out of hiding. A bordello in the neutral district of Dalaran was used as the location for the trap. Following a riot at the doors of the bordello, the mercenaries were assaulted by the murderer, a demon hunter of great power, who revealed himself to be more demon than elf. After a difficult battle, the demon was forced to retreat. Before any pursuit could be mounted, a strange shalike creature blocked Parigan’s path out of the bordello, seemingly wanting to feed on the mercenaries’ emotions. After the sha’s trap was released, Parigan alone pursued the killer, much to the chagrin of the other mercenaries who still tended to their wounds, and followed a trail of fel blood into the Underbelly of Dalaran…

Where the trail ended, the corpses began. Their bodies had been drained of life by fel magic, same as all the others. Two humans, a man and a woman.  Perhaps lovers, or brother and sister. It mattered little to Parigan. What was important, in that moment, was the demon that had escaped his grasp. His right hand balled into a fist, knuckles cracking angrily. ‘Not only are the streets still unsafe, but the demon’s trail is cold again. Some of those mercs might have been able to track him further, but they opted to sit around like slack jawed idiots!’ he thought to himself, enraged by the thought of them. Shokkra especially had been a disappointment. Of all the people he had fought alongside today, she was the one person he expected not to give up as soon as the killer turned tail.

Leveling his emotions, Parigan thought back to the encounter. The demon had gotten hold of Ophinnia and tried to drain her life like he had done the Alliance in the streets. Seeing her, unconscious and helpless, had triggered something in Parigan that he hadn’t expected. A rage he hadn’t tapped into for years. It hadn’t burned hot like a normal anger, but dark and cold. It cast a shadow on his heart and darkened his thoughts so he was blind to all reason. The last time that sort of rage had bubbled to the surface was the night he had died.

He shook those thoughts off as he turned to walk away from the bodies lying in the sewer water. As he whirled around, he came face-to-face with three men: a human, a dwarf, and a night elf. They each carried a stein in their hands, were clearly drunk, and were staring at him in shock. Parigan grunted and spoke to them in Common, “It’s too late for those two.”

The dwarf’s face contorted in rage as he yelled out, “Murderer! You killed them!” The human dropped his stein and murmured an incantation, frost appearing on his fingertips. The elf started to take off, saying, “I’ll get the watch!” Parigan scowled. “You idiots!” he barked as he drew his blade from the hook on his back. “Does it really look like I cut them down?! I was chasing the real killer!” The human mage threatened the undead with a spell, saying, “Put that down before you make things worse for yourself!”

‘They’ve already made up their minds,’ Parigan thought to himself, ‘But that doesn’t mean I’m taking the fall for this!’ He charged the mage, deflecting his spell with the flat of his blade. He smashed the human’s jaw with the sword, then spun rapidly, his blade slicing through cloth, flesh, and bone. Upon clashing with the human’s bones, the sword made a clanging noise that echoed through the wide stone pipes of the city. The top half of the mage's body flew deeper into the sewer through a hole to Parigan’s left as his lower body collapsed on the ground. The dwarf’s eyes widened in fear and the elf slipped on the wet stairs heading up and out of the Underbelly as the greatsword made contact with his friend’s body. Parigan turned rapidly, slicing the dwarf’s head clean off before he could shout again. The elf was scrambling and babbling pleas for mercy as the undead lined up his final swing. The blade came down, blasting its way through the elf’s body and the wooden stairs with a sickening crunch and a mighty spray of elven blood. Then everything went quiet.

Looking around at his work, Parigan thought to himself, ‘They gave me no choice. I’m not leaving this city, and I’m not getting myself locked in the Hold, either. It was them, or me.’ He let the waters of the sewer wash some of the blood off his sword before he started to hear voices approaching. He looked down the hole the human’s body had flown through and saw only sewage below, so he jumped. His heavy plate armor weighed him down, but using all his strength, Parigan climbed out of the filthy water and sprinted until he couldn’t hear the voices any longer. On his way, he saw blood in the water. The human’s terrified face appeared to gawk at him as he ran past. Then it sank into the water.

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Edited by RiktheRed21

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RiktheRed21    38

A small dwarven bunker recently constructed in the scar between the Badlands and the Bronzebeard dwarf territory of Khaz Modan…

A blood-colored sun rose over the mountains of the Badlands. As light pierced the cleft carved by the Cataclysm, the entrance to the bunker flashed white on a soot-black environment. Glittering armor indicated where guards had been set on the outside to watch for attackers. Far, far above, watching from the face of a cliff, sat Kazarak Bloodskull, the Darkspear shaman. He had been waiting for his opportunity to strike, and the spirits told him it would come soon. Through the eye sockets of the trophy Zandalari mask he cast his far sight upon the scarred landscape below him, watching, waiting for his target to arrive.

Years past, following the Siege of Orgimmar, Kazarak had been sent on a mission of diplomacy on the behalf of his new Warchief, Vol’jin. His group was tasked with speaking to the local military units of the Alliance and Horde, to spread word of the ceasefire. Though they sent word of their coming, an Alliance outpost occupied by men and women with a history for brutal tactics set a trap for the Horde diplomats. They were lured in, and their throats slit, Kazarak’s included. Though they were piled in a mass grave and condemned to be picked apart by carrion, Kaz returned to life by the grace of the Spirits, and in his mind only one goal would be considered. He returned to the outpost, this time with his weapons in hand. But the cowards had already fled, or been recalled by those who were supposed to control them. Kaz spent years tracking them down, one by one. He gathered their heads and would leave them at the entrance to Stormwind City along with a note. They always said the same thing, “Enemy of Peace.

Now, Kazarak had tracked another of them. A dwarf by the name of Morig Leadfist. The man had earned blood money all his life, but Kaz was still able to trace where the money came from, and where it was going. Morig had bought himself a place with a group of borderland mercenaries called the Band of Soot. They made this bunker using cheap labor. Cheap, because it was forced upon captured peons from New Kargath. After construction of the bunker, they were all executed, naturally. Kaz mourned their loss, and promised their spirits rest as soon as he claimed justice against their killers. Today, at sunrise, the new recruits would arrive in a caravan from Khaz Modan. Morig would be on it, as would numerous other mercenaries and unsavory types. Kaz planned to kill them all.

As if on que, the timely dwarven caravan, comprised of three carts packed with a dozen troops each, pulled by two hulking mountain rams each, arrived just as the sun lit up the cart path in the scar. Using his enhanced senses, Kaz narrowed his vision in on each cart, until at last he found who he sought. Morig Leadfist, in the flesh. He clomped his way out of the middle cart, a spiked mace draped over a mail pauldron. As the new arrivals approached the bunker, unpacking gear from the carts, Kaz shifted his form into that of a spirit wolf, and padded his way down the steep slope into the scar below. In his ghostly form, he would be nearly impossible to spot until he got in close. By then, it would be too late for his foes. After several minutes of descent, Kaz at last made it to the bottom, and sprinted for cover in the rocks along the side of the cliff face. Two dwarves were chatting in their native tongue while moving crates from the third and final cart, the furthest down the road from the bunker. These two were out of sight from the rest. Kaz moved in quickly, drawing an axe and a mace as he did so. By the time the dwarves turned around, his weapons were raised, and it was too late to call for help.

Kaz called to the spirits of earth with a silent command, ushering in a dust storm. The cloud of dust was enough to limit vision for a normal person. Kaz, however, used the wind to sense and feel his way. As the dwarves barked angrily in their stout and simple language, Kaz picked them off one by one, making his way in between carts unseen before striking. When at last he found his target, Morig was feeling up a female dwarf, who seemed accepting of the man’s advances. Kazarak frowned angrily behind his mask. Not only was the man a disgrace and a dishonor, but he did not even pay attention as his comrades were slaughtered around him. He, who was too busy scoring a piece of ass to watch for his allies. It made Kaz sick. He struck like a viper, smacking Morig in the back of the head with his mace. Hard enough to knock him out, but soft as to not kill him yet. The female opened her mouth to bellow a warning, but Kaz tossed a knife into her gaping maw and took off for the next target as she gagged to death on steel.

The remaining dwarves had had the brains to gather in a formation resembling a defensive line. Half of them smelled so drunk, Kaz didn’t need the wind’s guidance to tell, even from a distance of several dozen yards. The officers were barking over the rippling wind Kaz had summoned for cover. The grunts of the band were watching Kaz’s position too carefully for comfort. He thought quickly and came up with an idea. First, he called upon the spirits of air, using a totem as a focal point. Once there was enough power to serve its purpose, he tossed it, using the winds to guide the totem to the center of the dwarves’ line. They stared, baffled at the totem. And just before an officer could warn the fools to move, a thundering boom echoed through the scar in the earth.

The totem had generated enough force to knock the dwarves over. It was chaos for them, and a target-rich environment for Kazarak. He darted into the fray, weapons flying through armor and flesh with ease thanks to the melting power of fire and the shocking power of lightning. The dwarves fell again, this time for good. All except one, a warrior adorned in heavy mithril armor. He carried a massive shield that covered his entire body, and wielded a halberd, which he threatened Kaz with as he approached quickly, despite his burden. Kaz ducked toward the dwarf’s shielded side, avoiding the halberd as it came down where he had just been standing. The dwarf barked some taunt, and Kaz returned the favor with a swift, lava empowered strike to the shield. It glowed bright red under the immense heat. By now, the dust had settled and the pair could see each other clearly. The dwarf’s helm was modeled after a titan’s face, or at least, what a titan’s statue normally looked like. His shield was decorated with the image of a dragon, and dwarven glyphs had been carved into it, which began to lose their shape under the extreme heat of Kaz’s attack.

The shaman stepped back as the halberd swung again, this time giving him no room to sidestep. He capitalized on the swing, ducking back into the fight with a heavy stormstrike, clipping the polearm in half and sending a jolt up the dwarf’s arm. The dwarf shouted some curse and charged the troll, shield first. Kaz dodged to the side, and clipped the dwarf’s legs with an extended leg, sending him plummeting into the ground. There, Kaz plunged his axe into the back of his helmet, and poured the essence of storms into it until the dwarf’s head vibrated from the electricity. Twitching, but clearly dead, the warrior was left behind to rot in the dust as Kazarak strode back to where he had left Morig Leadfist. The shaman sheathed his weapons, and produced rope with which to tie the dwarf’s hands, and a large bag to stuff him in, which he also tied. Whistling sharply, Kazarak awaited the arrival of his mount as he secured the dwarf in his bag and lifted it partly over his shoulder. A groan from one of the fallen mercenaries took Kazarak’s attention. He spoke in the Common tongue, which Kaz had limited knowledge of, “Help me…please.” The dwarf clutched a shallow wound at his neck, from which blood poured across the ashen ground. Kaz lowered the bag from his shoulder and stepped toward the injured man, regarding him passively from behind his off-putting Zandalari mask. The dwarf reached out with a bloody hand, and said again, “Help…me.” The shadow of Kazarak’s rylak drew closer as he crouched down, drew a knife from his belt, and slowly lowered it into the dwarf’s heart. The dwarf pleaded with him through every agonizing second, asking, “Why? Why?” Kazarak replied in his slow voice, impeded by the injury sustained in Pandaira, “You…ask for help. Only death…can save you…from me.” Then he plunged the knife deep into the dwarf’s chest, withdrew it in a swift motion and returned to his captive.

Morig was why he truly came, but it was not to kill him. For tomorrow, Kazarak would stand before the Grim and be judged by the Inquisitor. Kazarak wanted, no, needed to show him that his will was great. That he was a Grim by heart. He would bring this captive as a display of why he chose to fight, and how he chose to go about fighting. That would show them exactly the sort of man he was. The sort of man he had become.

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RiktheRed21    38

Parigan stood in the shadow of a tall, purple spire-tipped apartment building on the fringe of the Alliance and neutral districts of Dalaran. He stared up at an open window, high above, where he knew his daughter would be gazing out the window at the glamorous view of the city below. That was part of what made the place so damned expensive to rent. And also part of why Parigan had wanted to advise against choosing it. Though he hadn’t said anything, he wanted to warn Brinnea of the dangers of having such an obvious and luxurious home in the city. If ever someone came looking for them, they might as well have painted targets on their backs. He had deigned not to speak on the matter because he knew Brinnea shared his thoughts. They always thought alike these days. Always looking for the best path to take to survival, for safety. But Brinnea had settled for this beautiful beast of a place because she wanted somewhere nice for their daughter to grow up. A place of beauty, and peace. High above the city streets where rioters and murderers stalked, she could look down and see only what was beautiful. It was all a lie, an illusion. But it helped both parents live with themselves.

He stood there in the building’s shadow, on the perilous streets, watching to keep it safe and free. But he was also there trying to convince himself to climb the steps of the towering structure, walk into the apartment, and see the daughter he’d sought after for so long. With all his might, he struggled to move his legs; to take the first step. Yet he remained glued to that spot in the shadow, out of sight. Was it fear that planted his feet firmly as blurred faces passed him by? Fear of the unknown, perhaps, or fear of the inevitable? Was Parigan afraid of what might happen when he opened that door, that his own living daughter would cast him out as the rest of his loved ones once had? Or was it that he knew someday, maybe many years from now, he would lose her again, lose the only thing that kept him anchored to sanity, perhaps life itself?

His thoughts were scattered when through the window he watched over, fire spat and glass was shattered by the force. His eye widened, his muscles tightened, and every fear that kept him anchored faded like a storm carried away by a fierce wind. He charged forward, barreling through the front door of the apartment. He ignored the attendant at the front desk and leaped up the stairs, taking them three at a time. They spiraled up and up and up, and up he went for what felt like hours upon hours. The agony of not knowing spurred him on. He had to see, to make sure she was alright. To kill anyone that would harm her. Nothing, not even his own fear could slow him down now.

He turned sharply into the hallway surrounding the staircase at the fifteenth floor, and raced down the circular passage to apartment number 1510. Not bothering to slow down, he kicked the door off its hinges and quickly looked around the smoky room for threats, his blade already flying from his back in his hand. What he saw surprised, and confused him. Brinnea’s father Torven gaped at him from the nearby window. He had just opened it, apparently to let the smoke dissipate into the outside air. Glass shards fell to the ground as he lost his telekinetic grip on them. A trash bin sat in the middle of the floor, where the shards were supposed to land. The entire kitchen was scorched by fire, but by all appearances no one had been hurt. Charlotte sat on the living room sofa. Her once pale delicate face was plastered with soot, and her short auburn hair was in tatters. Her wide grey eyes beamed and her thin lips twisted into a devilish grin. A fire spell floated above her hands, flickering like a candle fire. Parigan’s grip on his blade loosened, and the sword fell back onto the hook draped from his back. He gnashed his teeth against his metal jaw and muttered at Torven, “What the hell is going on here?”

The mage stood quickly, clearing his throat. Charlotte eyes Parigan curiously. Parigan’s blackened heart skipped a beat. In that moment, she seemed not scared, but more fascinated, as if Parigan were a specimen for study. Torven spoke, “Parigan! We were just, uh, cooking! Yes, that’s right, cooking. Our turkey got a little overcooked is all!” Charlotte sat up on her knees, hiding her hands behind her back. She added, “Yeah, we were makin’ dinner!” Her adorable high-pitched voice, so full of innocence and wonder, melted Parigan’s resolve. It had been too long since he’d been in the presence of one so young, for obvious reasons. The undead looked back and forth between the two humans, man and child. He softened his tone, saying, “Right, turkey.” His one-eyed gaze settled on Torven. “We’ll talk later.” He turned his full attention to Charlotte.

“Are you my daddy?” the little girl asked Parigan. Her eyes were giant pools of light, and he was getting lost in them, just as he did his wife’s years ago. He chuckled softly. “Yeah, guess that’s me,” he said quietly. Charlotte’s mouth opened wide, along with her ever widening eyes, somehow. She sprang up from the couch and ran to her father, jumping into his arms. “I waited for you! Miss Thalia said you’d come for me someday, and you did!” Parigan caught the tiny girl, careful not to crush her. Handling something with such care was odd, but put him at ease. The vision in his eye blurred. Was he crying? He’d thought it was physically impossible. He knelt, embracing the girl while she stood on the floor. Orphan Matron Thalia had watched after many orphaned and alone children in Lordaeron following the Third War. Charlotte had made her way into Thalia’a care after a member of the Gilneas Reclaimers had found her alone, surrounded by corpses. The worgen had passed her on to the makeshift orphanage at Chillwind Camp, where she had grown for four years. Thalia was a good-natured dwarf, and great with children, but more importantly was a former paladin, who had left her holy order when it swore service to the Scarlet Crusade. She had defended the children with her life ever since, and never lost a single one. Parigan had never felt so grateful for someone’s courage before, and still felt indebted to the woman, an uncommon feeling for him.

Choking back a sob, Parigan replied to Charlotte, “Of course I did, sweetheart. I’d never leave you. I’m sorry it took so long to come find you.” The girl wiped his tears away with her palm. “Don’t cry, daddy, you found me!” She giggled happily, and hugged him again.

Later that night, after the Violet Watchers had investigated the explosion, (and left somewhat satisfied with the cooking accident story, since Torven was well known as a clumsy mage), Charlotte was in bed, tired from the day’s antics. Torven exited the girl’s bedroom after completing their nightly story time. Parigan sat waiting for him on the living room couch, tinkering with his metal leg. He looked up from his work, saying, “Just like her mother, isn’t she? Loves her stories.” Torven nodded, plopping himself down on the couch beside Parigan. “She’s a handful just like Brin, but that means it’ll be worth it, too. No complaints here.” Parigan allowed silence to descend on them as he continued his work. Torven poured himself a glass of grape juice, lamenting the lack of alcohol, and took a long drink. He added belatedly, “I forgot how parched I get after one of those stories.”

“I know you were teaching Charlotte how to use magic,” Parigan said plainly. All trace of the heartfelt dad from before had receded and was replaced with his usual suspicious self. Torven paled and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I know I should have asked first. She saw me use my fire magic for dinner and wanted to learn. I didn’t think there would be any harm—“

“You’re going to keep teaching her,” Parigan interjected, “She needs to know how to defend herself.” Torven’s grizzled face was written with worry. He replied, hands fidgeting with his mug, “Shouldn’t we ask Brin first? I don’t want to do anything without her permission. I only just got her trust back.” Parigan responded, “You leave her to me. I’ll make her agree with me. She has to see that we can’t be there for Charlotte all the time. The greatest defense is one’s own ability, after all. Besides, she clearly has a knack for it.” He gestured to the blackened mess of a kitchen. Torven sighed loudly, just now remembering he had to clean all that, still. “Yeah,” he said reluctantly, “I agree with you there. She’s a natural with fire magic, though she as of yet lacks restraint. I’ll show her some basics and teach her how to control it, but I’m not doing anything advanced until Brinnea gives me the ok.” Parigan tapped his metal chin and said, “Deal. I’ll give her some lessons on how to use a knife when I visit again. She’s got the energy for it, certainly.”

Torven rubbed his forehead. “I won’t allow that. Not unless you agree to move in. No more lurking in the alleys and the Underbelly. You look like hell. Take a break, and get to know your daughter.” Parigan tenses up at the sudden commands from Torven, but loosens up with a long exhale. “You’re damn right, I’m moving in. It’ll be easier to watch after her, anyway.” He smiled despite himself. All it took was the thought of Charlotte being in danger, and it didn’t matter anymore how different they were. She was his daughter, and he would do anything to protect her. And besides, she had accepted him, scars and all. His fears were alleviated. At least, for the most part.

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Edited by RiktheRed21

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RiktheRed21    38

Kazarak perched himself over the center of Thunder Bluff, on the large totem pole in which the Tauren based their flight services. The troll held an odd purple heart to his ear. It beat faintly, and sometimes in between the beats, he could hear the spirit of the dwarf he had cut it from speak. Tonight, it was rather quiet, but he listened nonetheless. His hunt had ended in a dead-end after that dwarf in the Badlands had fallen to his axe. He had somehow escaped Kazarak’s notice during the attack, but he had known Morig Leadfist, so Kaz had hoped he might learn of the whereabouts of the remaining two targets from his spirit. So far, the dwarf had told him little and less. When he had first begun his hunt two years ago, Kaz had tracked one human that had remained in Pandaria following the ambassadors’ deaths. She had been easy to track. The caravan she’d joined up with left a trail for miles on a main road through Kun’lai. When he finally found her and the new party she had found herself in, he butchered them all without remorse. Even though they had nothing to do with it, they were the enemy. And they were in his way. The woman had lost her leg to one of Kazarak’s spirit raptors and was bleeding out. He asked for her name. She had given it, holding on to the hope she might survive if she did as asked. He asked her if she remembered him. She had said yes. He asked if she was sorry. She nodded. He had told her it didn’t matter. Then he put his axe in her skull.

Hers was the first heart fetish he had crafted to track the remaining targets. The girl had known where some of them intended to travel, and she knew all their names. He had made a record so he could find them by name. Some of them were assumed names, but enough of the targets knew one another well enough that the trails had remained for him to find. Now all that remained were a human named Braddock Stone, and a night elf named Twinsnake. Stone was a businessman in Stormwind, having made himself rich off the rebuilding efforts for the former Stormwind Park. He had himself a cozy home in Stormwind that he stayed at regularly, but currently he found himself in a summer home Kaz had yet to get a location on. All this he had learned from asking around, listening to conversations, and bribing those who knew the man from less than respectable business deals. Twinsnake, on the other hand, remained an absolute mystery. All he knew was the elf was a huntsman, and always wore a shawl to cover his face. The elf had been a terror for everyone on the base they shared, always watching their every move and barking at them with insults and threats if they stepped out of line. He had served as a personal escort for Braddock, who had been their leader. If anyone were to know how to find Twinsnake, it was Braddock Stone. So he was the next target.

A whisper from the heart sent a shiver through Kazarak’s ear: “My deepest regret…is I never got to feed my ram Nessy that night…” Kaz sighed. The dwarf’s soul had been spouting nonsense for days. Spirits drifted further away from material desires and information the longer they had been apart from their bodies. After a week and half, Kaz had nearly given up hope the heart would be of any use to him. Just as he considered destroying the heart outright, he heard a clop of hooves behind him. He stood and whirled about to face the new arrival. Unsurprisingly, it was a Tauren. A young man, at that. He wore an average tracker’s garb of dirty leather and carried a large burden on his back, wrapped in a brown cloak. He huffed and puffed as if he had climbed all the way to the top of the totem. Kaz knew him, but not well. He was the son of a Sunwalker called Quaran Goldfield, who had been an old war friend of his. The kid bent over, panting still. Kaz regarded him from behind his wolfskin hood. “Nagoda Goldfield, is it?” he questioned calmly.

“Indeed,” the boy panted, “Well met, friend Kazarak. My father spoke highly of you, and of the rest of Team Six, of course”

Kazarak remembered Team Six fondly. Before the Siege had turned them against their leader, Team Six had been an elite squad of soldiers sent on dangerous missions for the Horde. They had a representative from every race. Kaz had been their troll, and Quaran their Tauren. He kept in touch with them, but not regularly. They had all grown distant in recent years. Kaz replied, in his typical ragged, slow speech, to Nagoda, “And how is your father? We have not spoken…in some time.”

Nagoda’s panting ceased, and he frowned deeply. He slung the bundle off his back and unwrapped it while Kaz waited patiently. As the bundle unfurled to reveal a large stone sledge bearing the marks of the Sunwalkers, Kazarak’s heart sank. Nagoda sniffled, but managed to say, “He’s dead. This is…all I have left of him. The rest burned away at his funeral pyre.”

Kaz stepped forward to the kneeling Tauren and bent to give the boy a heartfelt hug. “I am…truly sorry. He was a friend. Tell me, if it is…not to painful, how did he die?” Nagoda wiped a tear from his eye, and replied, “You heard about the death knight who attacked the village down by the lake, I assume?” Kazarak nodded, and Nagoda continued, “The death knight responsible was taken prisoner. Brinnea Velmon.” He seethed at the name, and continued much more angrily, “She escaped her execution, and my father gave chase, following after her all the way north to Winterspring. There was another warrior alongside Brinnea Velmon that fought all the hunters that followed Father. He killed them. All of them! Even Orgog was with them, and he died too! No one ever beat Orgog.” The Tauren cradled his head in his hands. Kaz’s scarred face wrinkled with displeasure. Not only had Quaran fallen to this warrior, but Orgog as well, another member of their Team Six. Orgog had been a fearsome warrior, never bested by anyone in a one on one battle. Yet somehow, another warrior had bested him as well as all those following Quaran. This man seemed a true terror.

Nagoda went on, “No one else was able to find the after that. There was a lead on the warrior. Some blood left behind at the site of battle. The alchemists told me it was a Forsaken. And witnesses from the execution said he was garbed all in black, and carried a huge greatsword.” Pausing, the Tauren looked Kazarak in the eyes. “My friend, these undead savages…they must pay! If anyone can find them, it is you. My father told me you spent years hunting targets you had only met once, and that you found more than half of them in the first year alone! And you were the only one who ever came close to beating Orgog. You are my only hope of finding them. And… you are a Grim now, are you not?”

Kazarak looked down at his tabard, which bore the mark of the guild in question. “I am, Nagoda. Why?” he wondered. The Tauren replied, “The Grim were responsible for overseeing the execution. It was them the death knight called for when she slaughtered our people. You are one of them now. Answer her challenge! Find her, and give her the death she deserves. Her, and the black swordsman with her.”

Kazarak did not take long to think it over, “I will do this. The Horde is…endangered by their lives. I will end them. When it is done…I will bring you their corpses.”

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Edited by RiktheRed21

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RiktheRed21    38

Gilneas, 27 years ago. Two figures sit apart from one another in a dark room. One a young man bearing a bundled infant, the other a dark-robed woman with fire in her eyes. A storm echoes outside; the patter of rain drones like a tired beast.

 

Cynthia tapped the wooden table with a painted nail irritably. The man sitting in the chair by the crackling fire with the child in his arms was the source of her frustration. He had finished telling a rather unpleasant tale. Her husband was dead, as were all her children. All but one. He sat cradling the child as if it were all that mattered in the world. He’d spent months adrift at sea, the memory of his family’s downfall slowly turning stale in his mind. Yet the news was fresh and raw for Cynthia. She, who had been left in the misery of Gilneas to watch after the household while the fruit of her loins gallivanted in Stormwind territory, hunting for glory. Arthur Blackmane, that fool of a husband, had brought ruin and misery on all of them. All to earn favor in the eyes of the king! What would his favor do for them now? Now that only her youngest and frailest son had returned home, his young wife with child and another in his arms, brought home from some Light-forsaken island. It was all in ruins.

Cynthia stood abruptly, the squeak of her chair’s legs on the stone floor disturbing the droning quiet. The child stirred in the man’s arms, but did not cry out. Cynthia turned away from them both, facing the storm. Biting back her anger, she spoke to her son, “From henceforth, you shall be the heir of House Blackmane. That means you will learn to rule as an alpha wolf rules his pack. You survived the war, and you survived the wilds. But intrigue and plotting is another beast entirely. One misstep and you will bring death to everyone you love.”

The man replied, his voice steady, “I am ready, mother. I will do what my father could not. I will bring our House back to its former glory.” Cynthia shook her head. “No,” she said sternly, “You will achieve so much more.” The woman turned again, slowly approaching the man, her son. Her presence brought an unpleasant chill to the room. “You will,” she continued, “Or you will die trying, hmm?”

Three years later…

 

Cynthia sat in a rocking chair, knitting a scarf with a cloudy grey pattern on it. The scarf would keep her warm when the winter chill came this year, but it would not do her any favors in standing out among the popular fashion. Everything in Gilneas was so dark and moody, never a ray of sunshine or a drop of color to be found anywhere. It hung heavily on her heart. She, who had come to this land an outcast from her home. She had not been born into the House of Blackmane, but she had brought changes to it that would lead it to great glory. From what she had been told of its history, the family traced its lineage back to the progenitors of the kingdom Gilneas. They had been powerful huntsman and warriors, revering a pair of wolf spirits called the Lycan and the Paragon. One was dark, while the other was light, respectively. The family, in its tribal stages, had two leaders: brothers who represented the spirits. It was custom to this day to name children after the great spirits who had forged their legacy. However, little of their former strength and influence remained in modern times. Only a single thread held them together: Cynthia’s son, Mayes Blackmane.

Mayes entered the room where she sat knitting and stood behind her. He spoke a greeting, “Evening, mother.” She replied, “Have you done as I asked?”

“Indeed. Roland Smithe has been dealt with, and his mines will soon become part of my holdings in the highlands. The crown will not suspect me, as the incident shall be chalked up to a robbery gone wrong.” He reported the end result of their plan dutifully. From what he said, it went off without a hitch. She smiled despite herself. “Excellent,” she said flatly, not wanting to shed too much praise on the boy. He had been merely a tool of her plan, after all. “The mines shall account for our wealth to cover the expenditures in the coming years, hmm.” She let out a hacking cough without warning. Mayes remained where he stood, ever obedient. Cynthia did not like to be approached without asking. “Are you…well, mother?” he asked carefully. She looked down at her scarf-to-be, now stained red with a few droplets of blood. She lowered her eyes in a glare. “Do not concern yourself, child,” she said dismissively. “I have a new task for you. With the Smithes crippled, it is time to make a move on bigger targets. Houses Greatfang and Hunter must become loyal to us if we are to have the manpower to rule the city and the Blackwald. Convince Walden Hunter to come to our side with the promise of split profits on the fishing industry. As for Greatfang, promise him your firstborn for marriage. His only daughter will be of the age about the same time.”

Mayes absorbed the instructions wordlessly. When she had finished, he replied, “It shall be done, mother.” She dismissed him, and he went. Glaring at the blood once more, Cynthia clenched her frail hands around the stained cloth. Smoke slithered from beneath her grip. Fire caught where she held the scarf, and soon the entire weave had come alight. She tossed the ruined piece in the cold hearth and watched it burn.

The following Winter…

Cynthia sat in her bed, breathing heavily and gripping her blanket tightly around her boney frame. The sickness had spread through her like wildfire. No physician or healer could find a cure for it, and every attempt had left her tired and humiliated further. After months of treatment, she had told them all, “Enough.” She was done fighting it. It was her time to pass, at the ripe age of 57. She should consider herself lucky she would go out peacefully, instead of hanged for her crimes. Years of her life spent building her family up would not go to waste. Mayes, at the very least, had become competent enough to keep moving in the right direction.

He sat by her bedside, his dark brown eyes never betraying his thoughts. Cynthia’s own fiery golden eyes had dimmed in her darkening hour. She looked upon her son’s face and saw her late husband. He had always kept his thoughts secret from her. His hidden desires had taken him from her. In her last moments, she wanted to make sure the same would not happen to her son. She would not die full of regret. “My son…,” she spoke to him. He took her hand between both of his gently, and listened. “You have something…you wish to say to me. Do not deny it.” She was interrupted by a coughing fit. Mayes offered her a handkerchief for the blood. When she managed to breathe easy again, he said, “Mother, all my life I have wanted only to make you happy. My every desire, I had only because you willed it. And now you will be taken from me. And yet, I do not feel the same sadness as when I lost father and my brothers.”

Cynthia’s eye narrowed, but her once proud and threatening face lacked the intimidating luster it once had. Mayes continued, “I feel relief at your passing. At last, I will be free of you. I can pursue my own desires; watch over my family the way I choose to. But know that I am thankful for all you’ve shown me. I’ve seen the world as it truly is: a savage world where only the strong survive. Only by my wits and my will will I make it for myself and my family. Clinging to your rotting dreams will not keep me strong.” Gazing into her son’s eyes, Cynthia felt her heart churning with hatred. This boy, this mere puppet of hers, had become ungrateful and betrayed her! In her final moments, he mocked all she had accomplished! And yet, with no strength left in her, she was powerless before him. He was free of her. Something burned at the back of her mind. A voice, perhaps? Yet, her traitorous son went on, “I am not sorry, mother. I know you would do the same if our situation were reversed. You are a wretched woman, and the world will be better without you.” He stood and walked out of the room.

Heaving and retching, she crawled her way out of her mortal prison

 

She clawed herself free of the shackles that bound her

 

Never stopping to ponder the consequences, the Lady set herself free

 

And all stopped to watch as the home she had built burned to ash.

 

The Lord of All Things called her by name.

 

‘Cynthia,’ it said sweetly, ‘Do you seek the will you have lost?’

 

‘I do,’ she said back. ‘Then let my fire into your heart,’ He told her.

 

‘Let me in, and you shall never go wanting again.’

 

Her youth, her fire, it came back to her now

 

She looked back upon the home she once held so dear,

 

And swore by her new Master that they would all burn.

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Edited by RiktheRed21

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RiktheRed21    38

Waves lapped against the rocky shoreline down below. Stars twinkled in the night sky high above. A brisk wind lapped at the tattered grey shroud wrapped messily around Brinnea’s shoulders. A somber shadow lie across her face, uncovered by the hood flowing freely in the breeze. Her icy gaze was cast out at sea. The first tendrils of sunlight rising above the horizon sent the stars into hiding, and dimmed the light of the moon. It was quiet here, in the newly rebuilt district of Stormwind. It was a place of contemplation and prayer to honor the departed. She thought it fitting to remain here while awaiting word from the General. There was plenty of departed to recall. Even a prayer or two found its way to her lips. Sitting at the edge of the stone circle, she could see the harbor district, the lighthouse island, and far out to sea, where the multicolor light of the rising sun reflected beautifully. It felt peaceful. From the training in meditation she had received from the monks on Pandaria, Brinnea could tell that this place was by far the most spiritual part of the city, even rivalling that of the crypts below the cathedral.

Yet it was not enough to shed the doubtful clouds from her stormy mind, nor warm the frozen tundra of her heart. There were people here. Eyes in her back. Her survival instincts – the only ones that seemed to work anymore – told her that lingering in such a place, weaponless, was a terrible idea. A sense of danger trumped the tranquility of the space. She felt an outsider. An aura of displeasure surrounded her from the onlookers. They despise you, a voice told her. You are an enemy, or a symbol of the wrongdoings that brought them to this place of peace. You don’t deserve to rest fitfully. Try as she might, the voice could not be silenced. Brinnea abruptly stood from her bench and flipped her hood up, shading her face from the beauty of the rising sun. Following a downward path, she set out on a walk down the stone-covered beach of Stormwind. The feeling of wariness and distrust slowly faded as she shied from view of the city. Yet her guilt still haunted her at the back of her mind.

Fists clenched, teeth gnashed, and face contorted in a snarl of frustration, Brinnea let out a roar of anger and slammed her fists into the hard-packed sand. Where she made contact, earth gave way in place of frozen crystals, which shattered, leaving behind a chilled crater, with the Death Knight in the center. She remained in her spot, eyes and face now drooped in sorrow. She curled into a ball, hugging her knees up against her slim chest. The heightening sun’s rays blinded her. She squinted as her eyes welled up with tears. She lay her forehead against her folded knees and hid her hooded visage from the light. In the dark, she saw visions of them. Tauren, orc, troll, and others. Many more. All of them mutilated, head severed and bloody. Some had clearly been bitten with eyes, noses, ears, or other parts sheared off. All of them stared at her lifelessly, in horror. There was no fight left to push them back. They swarmed her, and the whispers followed.

Why did you kill us?

Why do you hate us?

Please, have mercy!

Give us a chance…

You heartless monster!

Let me go!

No, no…!

I have…a family…spare me…

They called to her, a chorus of pleas and curses. It was deafening and blinding all at once. The images blurred together into a mist that swallowed her up. The whispers grew louder and louder until she felt herself being crushed under the weight. Then, slowly, they faded from her. The fog drew back from her vision, and the weight eased. Only one image appeared before her. A woman of great beauty, with waist-length red hair, bright blue eyes, flawless pale skin, and a heroic figure garbed in a paladin’s robe.

Mother.

‘Why are you crying, Brin?’ the phantom asked with great concern. Brinnea lifted her head from her lap, allowing light to flood her eyes. The phantom sat on the water, nearly invisible in the light of the sun. Brinnea rubbed cold tears from her freckled cheeks and replied with a weary voice, “I don’t know if I can go on like this.”

‘What do you mean, little one?’ her mother’s ghost asked, love and care dressing her face. Another voice, one belonging to a younger Brinnea, replied in the Death Knight’s stead, ‘Am I bad? Is that why Daddy tried to hurt me?’ The scene on the water faded, making way for a dimly lit camp in the woods. Three figures sat around a fire: her mother Maria, the eight-year-old version of herself, and her older sister, Christa, who was a young teenager at the time. Maria placed a strong but gentle hand on the younger child’s trembling shoulder and said, ‘No, you aren’t bad. And your father doesn’t hate you. He’s just…lost and confused.’

The young Christa frowned deeply and scoffed, saying, ‘What he did was unforgiveable. Owen’s been gone for almost a year, but none of us are still hung up over it! He had no right to treat us like that.’ Maria turned to her eldest, replying sternly, ‘Young lady, that is no way to speak of Owen or your father!’ The young Brinnea said meekly, as Christa huffed and looked away from their mother, ‘Is Dad really unforgiveable? Did he make a mistake that bad?’ The Death Knight’s eyes widened with realization. She knew the words that came next, and mouthed them as she heard them from her mother’s ghost.

“Nobody is unforgiveable. No matter how many mistakes you make, no matter how bad the things you did were, you can always make up for it.”

The vision dissipated like a raincloud as the sun’s rays pierced it. She was fixated on her mother’s gaze before the scene vanished from view. The determined and caring look in her mother’s eyes that night, and the words of hope did what she had thought was impossible. It had lifted the storm in her mind, even just a little. And her frozen heart felt a bit warmer. A flicker of hope had been lit within her. She held on to it, and didn’t let go.

The earth beneath her trembled and rose unnaturally to surround her huddled body, locking her in place. She felt a presence before she ever saw anything coming towards her. A ghostly wolf, the spirit form of a shaman. Its eyes were two different colors, one blood red and the other piercing blue. It approached from the sea, padding across the waves as only a shaman would. Its form changed into that of a male troll, becoming solid as he stepped onto the beach. He regarded her from behind a scarred Zandalari mask. Two axes were in his hands, but he held back rather than striking. Brinnea looked him in the eyes, awaiting a sign of attack or some word to indicate his intentions. After a brief inspection of her by the troll, he spoke, voice gruff and raspy, “Brinnea Velmon. You…do not hide well.”

Brin sighed, replying, “I’m through with hiding.” She noticed as the troll stretched his back a symbol engraved on the tabard he wore. A red cloaked skull figure with twin daggers resting on a black background. The symbol of the Grim. Her eyes narrowed as she continued, “A Grim. Took you long enough to reply to my message.” The troll cocked his head, saying, “I am new…to this hunt. But you…took less time to find…than anticipated. All who report seeing you…claim you are…proud and unwavering. Yet, here you sit. Huddled and defeated.”

“People change. We don’t have to do this. No one needs to get hurt because of this. Not you, and not me. We can walk away from this and end the bloodshed. Isn’t that what you Grim want? Peace?” Brinnea regarded the troll with a sturdy demeanor, despite her obvious disadvantage. He snorted at her notion of peace. “That sort of peace…is a fantasy. Only your death…can prevent my people’s suffering.” He tightened his grip on the axes, but remained firmly planted.

“If that’s what you’re here for, why haven’t you attacked already? Why even talk to me?”

“You are a…powerful and clever opponent. Any attack…would be anticipated and countered.”

“What then?” she asked curiously, “What is your plan here? Talk me to death?”

The troll’s face twitched eerily as if he were grinning madly behind his mask. “No. I merely delayed you. For this.” He tossed his axes to either side of her body. Each blade glimmered with elemental power, and sheared a gash in the sand on each side. The gashes grew, until they met beneath her feet. By then, Brinnea had gathered her runic power for a powerful storm of crystals, which weakened and shattered the earthen mold around her into tiny pieces. She leapt away from the gash, though it felt as though it grabbed at her very soul with invisible tendrils. She rolled, regaining her feet as the shaman cast a hurricane spell to pull her back to the strange portal in the ground. She froze her feet to the ground, seeping her frost deep into the beach. The Death Knight called to the troll over the galeforce winds, “I don’t want to fight you, but I won’t allow you to take me, either!”

He lunged, axes flashing into his hands in a burst of wind. Unable to dodge due to her planted feet, Brinnea triggered her blood runes, tugging at the blood within the troll’s veins. She forced his arms to pause before landing his attack, then she covered her hands in frost and pounded his chest hard enough to send him flying back onto the beach. His portal faded now that his axes had been removed from the ground. The troll growled in annoyance at his trap being foiled. Brinnea’s boots of frost cracked and fell to shards around her boots. “Walk away,” she said sternly, empty hands at her sides. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You are a creature…of murder,” he replied, “It doesn’t matter…what you want. You will kill…or die.” Then he lunged. Brinnea forced his body into the rock face of the cliff to her left with a shadowy hand. His axes triggered a pair of giant boulders to fall free of the wall A chain reaction of cracks weakened the side of the wall, and several large rocks fell loose. One, greater in size than Brinnea and the troll combined, fell towards them both as smaller chunks bounced painfully off their skin and armor. The shaman stumbled from his impact with the wall. He would be unable to get out of the way in time. Brinnea gritted her teeth in defiance. She gathered all her power into a fist and met the boulder in midair, crystalizing the inside with freezing runic power. Combined with his tremendous undead strength, the boulder shattered into small bits, showering the beach, and the troll below. Though he might be bruised by the impact, he was at least alive.

The Death Knight landed roughly, sprawled out on her hands and knees. Her attacker still girded himself for a fight despite having been saved from his own self-ensured demise. Brinnea regarded him sadly, until she heard human voices far behind her. Apparently some of the guards had noticed the results of their fight. The troll made a tsk noise and shifted into his wolf form once again, while saying, “This isn’t over.” He raced back across the water, out of sight in the sun’s light as Stormwind guards rounded the corner of the rocky cliffside.

The lead guard addressed Brinnea, “Are you alright? What happened here?”

Brinnea cast her gaze out to sea once more. She spoke to the guard calmly, “Nothing. A landslide, and nothing more.” The guards were surprised, as if expecting something worse. The head guard replied with uncertainty, “Do you…require an escort home, miss?”

“No, I’ll find my own way back.” She carried on down the beach wordlessly, leaving the dumbfounded guards to stare across a beach marred by melting crystals of ice and bits of rock.

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RiktheRed21    38

The musky dark forest of Duskwood reeked of undeath and putrid sickness, even more so than usual. It seemed something had seeped into the very roots of the woods, or so Brinnea inferred. She wasn’t very in-tune with nature, but she knew the shadow of death when it reared itself above the world. Though she carried no weapons, she still prepared for a fight here. In a clearing ahead of her, a cottage of Gilnean craft appeared, dimly lit by whale oil lanterns. It seemed little more than a silhouette in the darkness, but Brin recognized her sister-in-law’s home as if it were her own. She approached cautiously, on the lookout for Esmerra’s two bodyguards, but saw no one at all. With doubt filling the back of her mind, the Death Knight stepped up to the front door and knocked three times. No response.

The malicious shadow drew nearer, as if drawn by the sound. Upon another search for the threat, Brinnea noticed something especially troubling. The common sounds of a forest -- the cricket’s chrip, the owl’s hoot, even the distant sounds of water from the nearby river rushing past – none of it reached her ears. She was alone, by all appearances, and yet she felt something draw ever closer. With a flick of her arm, Brinnea expended the power of a rune and formed a sword from frost crystals in her hand. She called out to the presence in the woods, “Come out! Show yourself!” The silent foliage offered no reply.

All of a sudden, the sky crackled and brightened, nearly blinding the knight below. A sour green cyclone rippled into existence, and from it rained fire, equally verdant. Brinnea ducked out of the way as one of the flames rumbled from the sky onto the house she stood before. Wooden shrapnel flew in every direction, impaling itself in the grassy dirt. Brin rose quickly to face whatever had landed. A fel brute leapt from the wreckage, sending a tremor out around him as he landed, flattening the grass and charring the land with unholy flames. The Death Knight wasted no time engaging the demon, charging sword-first. The brute roared and swung his fiery blade at the frail human’s body. She ducked beneath it, and shattered her own makeshift blade in her adversary’s abdomen. She then grappled his head with a tendril of shadow, yanking him onto his back. She proceeded to strike the brute’s head with a fist of frost, freezing it down to the skull, while simultaneously shattering it. The brute’s body twitched as it disintegrated into ashes. Brinnea could feel his demonic soul returning to the Twisting Nether, and lamented her inability to shatter it completely.

More fireballs were making contact around her now. Brinnea formed a pair of frosty swords and shouted to the demons around her, “If you want to get into Azeroth, you have to go through me!” The Legion’s forces turned to face the knight, clad only in cloth and wielding little more than icicles. Their laughter echoed as they charged at her. They were not prepared for the frozen hell they had stepped into.

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RiktheRed21    38

The sun rose again on a dark day. The sun’s rays seemed tainted by the long arm of the Legion. Ominous clouds spread overhead, and green smoke rose from the horizon. The city of Stormwind was in a state of one with breath drawn. Everyone awaited the storm to come, all afraid to tear their eyes off the sky for too long. Word had spread of some small incursions in the lands at the border of their kingdom, but the true proof of what the doomsayers had warned was in the sky. Brinnea walked through town in shredded clothes, body covered in claw and bite marks, gashes from blades, and discolored skin from blunt trauma. Dark blood caked her all over, sending chills and sometimes screams down the streets as she passed by. The guards gave her uneasy looks, but left her alone. Her destination was just ahead then: the bank of Stormwind. She’d left her gear there when she had chosen to give up her weapons to the General, but she had use of them now.

Following the demons’ attacks the night prior, Brinnea had met with the Night’s Watch on the road to Darkshire, who offered her news of the Stormwind army, only recently returned from combat on Draenor, mobilizing for an attack on the Broken Isles on the Great Sea. Every Alliance race had sent troops and representatives to prepare for war with the Legion. Brinnea guessed that if she were to find her sister-in-law, it would be there. After withdrawing her medical supplies, combat surplus kit, armor, and some backup rune weapons, Brinnea cleaned herself up, put on her gear, and headed down to the docks to sign up for the fight. She found a familiar face assigning newcomers to ships – and old friend called Captain Randolph. The red-haired knight looked up from his paperwork as she reached the front of the line. He frowned deeply.

“Velmon. You shouldn’t be here. After everything that happened, I can’t just let you waltz back into the army. If word got out…well, it would be bad for both of us!” he growled sourly as she simply crossed her arms and frowned right back. “From the mess I saw in the south, I’d say you folks could use all the help you can get. Besides, I’m with Esmerra Blackmane, Lady of Gilneas. If you send word, she’ll vouch for me.” The warrior groaned and pinched his forehead in annoyance. Reluctantly he sent a runner to find Esmerra and told Brin to “Step out of line and wait patiently.” He also added, “Oh, and try not to murder any potential allies while you’re at it.” She grumbled as she leaned against a wall of supply crates. Redhelm was a dutiful, honor-bound man who would follow orders if it meant standing in a fire until his legs burnt to the bone. Brin had had the pleasure of working with him in Pandaria, where they had often gotten into disagreements. Despite his rank, which would easily have let him dismiss her from service for her brash behavior, he had kept her around and the two had become something more than friends. But that was in the past, before she even knew Parigan, her husband, was still alive. Brin and Rand had ceased contact shortly after the start of the Draenor campaign.

After about ten minutes of brooding and staring angrily at Captain Redhelm, Esmerra appeared from the crowd of soldiers and upon sighting Brinnea, sprinted into her arms with a warm, loving hug. The young druid laughingly said, “Brin! It’s so good to see you again!” Her bodyguards caught up to them, apologizing their way through the line of new volunteers Esmerra had just barreled through. One was an elderly worgen dressed in a large set of serving man’s clothes, and the other a rather large highland man with bright blonde curls and facepaint that accented his wide blue eyes. Brin warmly greeted the older man, Walther Vayne. They had worked together to search Duskwood for threats once, and he had been an invaluable source of knowledge and advice for her. The other, if she recalled correctly, had a very high-pitched voice that surprised her for his great size. She offered him a polite nod, which he returned stiffly, saying nothing. Esmerra drew back from their hug with a bright smile on her face.

“I’m glad you came to help us. There’s no one I’d rather have fighting for Gilneas than you,” she said. Brinnea smiled back, her hands still planted on her little sister’s shoulders. She had watched Esmerra grow into a beautiful woman before Gilneas fell, and they had always been close. The Death Knight replied, “Are you prepared to lead in battle again?” Esmerra nodded, her face still beaming. “Of course; Father taught me everything he knew about war, and with you by my side, the Legion doesn’t stand a chance!” She looked back at Captain Redhelm, who was giving the pair of them a look of impatience. Esmerra straightened herself and addressed the captain, “Sir Redhelm, this woman is in my employ and directly serves the Gilnean Crown. She will be permitted on my ship as she sees fit.” As she turned back around, she paused and said, “Oh! I’ll even fill in the paperwork, if it will speed things along.”

Captain Redhelm sighed and replied, “That won’t be necessary, my Lady. Do with her as you will. Only, do so quickly. We have a schedule to keep.” Esmerra nodded properly and led Brinnea and her guards to the dock at which her ship awaited. The Black Fang towered above them; it was among the finest military vessels ever appropriated by the Gilnean forces after the exile from their homeland. Esmerra’s father had built a small fleet, but had lost much of it in battle at Silvermoon. The Black Fang had survived the Forsaken fleet by its speed and superior hull strength. Brinnea was glad to see a ship of such promising background protecting her little sister. Esmerra directed her onto the ship’s deck, where sailors prepared the vessel for departure and soldiers drilled for combat. The Gilnean flag flew proudly from the top of the main mast. Raindrops pelted Brin’s helmet as the weather drew greyer. The knight said offhandedly, “Between the Gilnean tabards and the weather, it’s starting to feel like we’re back at home, eh Es?” Esmerra snickered and rubbed her hand along Brin’s shoulderplate.

“Someday,” she mused, “After all of this is over, we’ll get to go home and rebuild. You and Pari and little Charlotte can have a house in the country where no one will bother you. She’ll grow up happy. We’ll all be a family again. Someday.” Brinnea glanced off into the horizon, where the sky was darkest. Even though it was dark and stormy, though, she could still see a glimmer of light out there. She smiled. “Es, I promise I’ll do everything I can to make that dream come true. Tomorrow is a new day.” She pulled the young woman in for another hug. “But today, we have a world to save.”

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RiktheRed21    38

As the ship approached the isles, the light she had seen in the distance had grown brighter, until a ball of fire hurled itself forth from the maw of brightness and engulfed all Brinnea could see. It moved so fast, she had no chance to shout a warning. She grabbed Esmerra, who stood mesmerized by the incoming projectile, and ducked down, placing her body between the girl and the fire. Green runes surrounded them, a shield to absorb the magical fire. As the ball made impact with the vessel, the crew shouted and screamed, engulfed in flames instantly. Brin could feel the heat begin to penetrate the shield. Glancing behind her, she could see the entire ship was set ablaze. Anyone not leaping over the side was roasting. Gritting her teeth and holding her sister tightly, she shot a lance of frost through the fel flames, subduing them long enough to charge through and leap into the shallows below. She kicked hard, and froze the water below her feet to give the pair of them something to stand on. As Brin and Esmerra resurfaced, they witnessed the Black Fang’s mast fall over into the sea, and the ship began to teeter and sink.

Other Alliance ships nearby had been scuttled or sunk as fel fire rained from the sky. What appeared to be some sort of airship radiating green flames flew high overhead, bombarding the shoreline with raw fel death. Brinnea shouted to those floating nearby, freezing a path to shore in front of her. The Gilnean and Alliance troops scrambled quickly onto the path. As the Death Knight and young druid ran past, they helped up those who had been burned or could not get a good grip on the icy walkway. Once they reached the shore, they caught sight of a gathering of Alliance troops. The beach was covered in wreckage from airships and sea ships alike, bearing Alliance and Horde sigils. The High King Varian was rallying the reinforcements as they arrived, joined by Jaina Proudmoore and Genn Greymane. Esmerra called to those around her to prepare for battle. Brinnea drew her blades, eyeing the demons on the high ground inland. Nowhere to run now, she thought to herself. She forced the rage of war down and concentrated on keeping Esmerra safe. The druid’s form changed into that of a worgen, and then grew wispy, and twinkled like the stars. She called to the winds, the sun and moon, and nature itself to surround her and her allies. Brinnea was no expert on fae magic, but she could tell that here on the Broken Shore, nature’s power was faint. Then the King sounded the charge, and the Alliance answered.

Kazarak was submerged in water, choking on the blood of dead sailors and soldiers. Using the water around him, he hurdled himself up into the air, catapulting his body onto the wreckage of a sinking ship. It was marked with Alliance and Gilnean banners, he could see, but he could not tell where the crew of the ship had gone. In an attempt to take out the Death Knight Brinnea Velmon, he had snuck aboard the vessel she had chosen and waited below decks to strike when the time was right. He knew they were headed to the Broken Isles to fight the demons, and he would use the fight as a distraction to bring her down. However, the first sign of battle had been a fireball through the hull of the ship, which had nearly crushed and incinerated him. Only a quick reaction and use of the elements had saved him from a fiery end, but he had lost consciousness long enough for his prey to slip away.

Kazarak spotted the remnants of the Horde fleet down the beach, and deigned to join the fight there, rather than try and infiltrate the Alliance army to search for the Death Knight. He shifted form into a ghostly wolf and padded his way swiftly across the waves. He arrived with the Horde host just in time to join the charge up the beach. He weaved through the line of demons, delivering powerful strikes to their legs and torsos as he ran by. His aim was to bring down the demonic runes powering the portals that brought their reinforcements. Only then could the Horde take the beach. With the fury of the Maelstrom, he struck one down as the rest of the Horde joined in bringing the portals down. He looked across the sea of Horde, searching for his Grim brethren, but there were too many to discern the sigil from the crowd.

Warchief Vol’jin called to his people to advance into the heart of the Broken Shore, and Kaz followed, moving with the body of the Horde troops. The thunder of boots on the ground and warcries taken up all around him was deafening and invigorating. It took a special kind of battle to bring out this sort of excitement in Kaz, and he was prepared to soak in the blood of his enemies until none of them were left standing.

The battle had raged on for a time, to the point where Brinnea had lost track of how many demons she had cut through to keep the vanguard intact. Esmerra backed her up with lances of moon and sun fire, and kept enemies at bay with intense gusts of wind. Brin was impressed by her sister’s newfound skill, but remained focused on keeping the Legion’s forces from getting anywhere near her. At last, the Alliance and Horde forces had found Gul’dan. The warlock had Tirion Fordring in his grasp, much to Brinnea’s dismay. The paladin had been responsible for freeing her from the Lich King’s control once, and she had nothing but respect for the old knight. Seeing him enthralled and in pain was heartbreaking. Still, she had faith that the man would break free, as he once had against the Lich King’s icy prison.

 When the massive demon emerged from the fel fire and burned him, his screams of agony broke Brinnea’s resolve. She nearly collapsed to the ground. A hero such as he falling in brutal agony, the Light failing to protect him – it was unthinkable. She was reminded of how futile the fight truly was. No one person could stand before a Legion and win. But then Esmerra placed a sterling hand on her shoulder. The determination on the druid’s wolfish face put the courage back in Brinnea’s heart. She wasn’t alone anymore. And together, they had a chance. She readied her blades as the beast rampaged towards the Alliance forces…

Following the retreat of Fordring’s killer, Kaz and the Horde forces had taken a position on the cliffs overlooking the Alliance’s battlefield to cover the skies and bring down the portals through which an army spewed forth. Wave after wave of demons washed over the Horde forces, forcing them back again and again. Every time Kaz felt the tide of battle shift in their favor, another line of the Legion’s lapdogs came forward to quash his hope. A call to retreat to the cliffs was sent out to the troops. Kaz grimaced as he nearly took the full brunt of a felguard’s charge. He sidestepped, but a second too late. The demon’s axe cleaved through his shoulder and he felt his arm go limp. His axe clattered on the rocks at his feet. Growling in pain, he fell back to the cliff as three felguards surrounded him, each readying their axes to finish him off. With one foot nearly dangling off the edge, Kaz saw no way to escape. Baring his teeth behind his Zandalari mask, he ran forward, leaping over the axes as they swung at him.

With all the strength his wounded throat had left, he bellowed, “FOR…THE…HORDE!” A bolt of lightning met his axe as he plunged it into the head of a felguard. A burst of air struck the second off the cliff. The third swung his axe around for another strike, only to get stuck on a pillar of earth which rose from the ground at Kaz’s call. The troll swung a swath of lava from his axe, burning the demon’s legs. Then he drove his axe into its skull. Another wave of demons was already heading his way. He was cut off from the Horde troops. A horn bellowed above the din of battle, and he watched as his comrades began to flee back to the shore. He spotted Sylvanas, with a wounded Vol’jin on her mount. Kazarak panted, his arm throbbing in pain. He noticed the wound was oozing green corruption, and acting quickly, he amputated the arm with a swift strike from his axe. The pain was extreme enough to numb his entire body. Demons were heading his way, but he could not flee now. All he could do was tug himself toward the cliff, and tumble off the side.

Brinnea’s heart sank as the Horde fled the battle in the cliffs above. “Without the Horde, we’ll be overrun!” she overheard King Greymane shout. Esmerra was glaring up at the cliffs angrily. Brinnea could tell her anger was directed towards the Horde, who were supposed to have their back in this fight. Though Brin felt the sting of betrayal as well, she did not linger on it. The Alliance forces were fleeing to the incoming airship as a wave of demons bared down on them from the great spire ahead. As the Death Knight turned to run for the ship, she spotted a figure rolling down the side of the cliffs. A troll, wounded and oozing blood along the rocks as he fell. She was close to the rock wall, but the rest of the Alliance troops were fleeing. She told Esmerra, “Get to the ship! I’ll meet you there!” and tore off running for the troll. He’d been abandoned, just like the rest of them. He deserved a chance to survive this, and get home alive. Brinnea slid to her knees, grabbing the troll by his one arm and draped him over his shoulders, holding his legs in her other hand.

As more demons approached, she slipped through the shadows, taking the form of a phantom to travel fast and avoid the Legion’s attacks. She managed to catch up with her comrades and climb up the rope ladder to the vessel’s deck with the troll still on her back. Then, a massive demon grabbed the ship, nearly sending all of them over the side. She shouted defiantly, grabbing the edge of the ship with one hand, and holding on to the troll’s arm with the other. It seemed like an eternity, holding on for her life as the ship fell to the earth. Then, all of a sudden, the demon’s grip loosened, and they pulled away. She yanked the troll onto the deck of the ship and sat with her hands on her lap. The weight of an intense fight lay on her. Though fatigue was a distant memory as an undead, she still felt something akin to tiredness in her as they departed from the Broken Isles. Esmerra found her by the edge of the ship. The pair embraced. Esmerra had tears in her eyes. “The High King. He fell. I saw it happen; he saved us!” She sobbed quietly. Brinnea held her close, lending as much comfort as she could.

“This was a decisive loss,” Brin said sadly. “The Legion is more powerful than ever. We have to stay strong, or we’ll all lose.” Esmerra sniffled and nodded. Her eyes drifted to the troll. “He needs medical attention,” she said, her sadness and fear gone in the face of her will to save another. Her hands glowed with the force of nature and she treated the fallen man’s severed arm. Brin hadn’t had a chance to get a good look at the troll on the ground, but now she stared at him with wide eyes. On his chest was a singed tabard, black, with the mark of the Grim upon it. The same shaman that had attacked her in Stormwind. A hand drifted to the sword at her side. She watched the troll closely for any sign of consciousness, ready to strike at any indication of a threat. The propellers of the airship beat constantly and rhythmically. Many miles still back to Stormwind, to tell the people their enemies still came. With the dread of seeing the people’s downtrodden faces and the suspense of the Grim’s eventual awakening, this was going to be a long ride.

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RiktheRed21    38

Black smoke billowed in the distant sky, drifting above the sea of clouds below the city of Dalaran. The wind blew the black pillar towards the city, threatening to smother it and its inhabitants. Parigan stood watching the smoke from the landing platform on the edge of the city. He carried a sack of supplies for training and teaching Charlotte, as well as some food to make a proper meal. Despite Torven’s experience at housework, he was still hopeless at cooking. Someone had to feed the kid, and Parigan wasn’t a terrible cook, himself. But those concerns had left his mind. Rumors were spreading that Lady Proudmoore had recently returned to the city from battle in the Broken Isles. The rumors said the Alliance and Horde had lost, and that demons were invading Azeroth. That, and Brinnea hadn’t sent any word of her whereabouts in weeks. It was more than enough to worry the ever-paranoid warrior.

The thud of plate boots and the soft shifting of cloth robes broke Parigan’s trance. He turned to see a small force of mages and Violet Watchers form a semi-circle around him. One of them, apparently the leader, stepped forward and addressed him impatiently, “Parigan Blackmane! We received word that you were hiding out in the city. You, a fugitive of the Horde and the Alliance, are not welcome to muddy the already uneasy peace in Dalaran! Furthermore, evidence was presented linking you to the destruction of a storefront and the deaths of three citizens. Make this easy on everyone, and disarms yourself. Come quietly, or we will be forced to take action!” The man, a stocky human with pasty white skin, bright blue eyes, and silky blonde hair, drew a claymore from his back and motioned for those around him to arm themselves as well. Parigan bared his teeth as he regarded those around him.

Not much chance to take them all down, he thought to himself. Wouldn’t help matters much to kill anyone, either. He glared up at the spire in which his daughter waited for him. Bah! This is no time for doubts. Charlotte needs me! He placed a hand on the hilt of his greatsword. The stocky man growled a warning, “Just try and fight! You’ll be put down before you get a swing in!” Parigan grinned wickedly. “You sure?” he asked incredulously. “We’ll just have to see, then!” He leapt into the air at the guardsman, who blinked in disbelief. The mages readied their spells and sent bolts of frost at him, only too late. He landed on top of the leader’s torso, pinning him to the ground and knocking the air out of his lungs. The claymore went spinning out of his hands. The other guards closed in, lances and swords at the ready. The frostbolts hurled over their heads, headed straight for Parigan. The warrior hefted his greatsword and smashed the bolts out of the air in one swing. These mages are certainly orderly. And predictable.

A guardsman thrust at him with a lance. He blocked, then tackled his foe to the ground, bounding towards the mages at the back line. The other guards shifted and attacked from behind. More frostbolts threatened to pelt him from all around. Roaring with rage, he spun wildly, slicing bolts out of the air, and bashing weapons aside expertly. He tossed his blade past a nearby mage, forcing the woman to back up, losing her focus. He rushed forward, grabbing her around the neck with his prosthetic arm. Enough pressure, and he could have snapped her neck. The others recognized the danger and halted. Parigan scooped up his sword and backed up slowly. “That’s two swings. If you don’t want to see a third, I’d suggest you back off.” The leader, adjusting his cape as he stood, barked at him proudly despite the precarious situation, “You despicable brute! Just like a filthy rotter to take a hostage rather than fight fairly!”

Parigan tightened his grip, forcing a scream out of the mage’s agape mouth. Some of the guards threw their weapons aside without being told. The leader continued to stare defiantly. The undead growled back at him, “You know, it isn’t wise to prod a wolf with its jaws already around your friend’s neck! Tell them to stand down, and we all live another day.” He backed up further. The ground beneath his feet began to give way. Thinking quickly, Parigan kicked the mage toward her allies and stepped back from the spot as a snarling felhound burrowed out of the stones. Parigan grimaced and hefted his sword. More demons were popping out of the ground now. He noticed the smoke was engulfing the city now. In the black plume he could see bursts of fel green. The demons were attacking Dalaran.

Torven closed the window, coughing on the smoke as it drifted into the kitchen. Charlotte was too busy studying a magic scroll to notice the disturbance. She took to her studies well, and eagerly. He was certain Brinnea would be proud to see her. If only she were here. I hope she gets well soon. The girl’s missing her mother already. A knock at the door stole his attention. He walked over to it, ruffling girl’s hair as he passed her. He unlocked the door, and it burst open suddenly. A spear, pulsating with green fel energy was thrust through the entryway at him. The old mage gasped and blinked backwards, appearing beside Charlotte as the spear passed through an apparition of himself. He grabbed the child and lifted her into his arms. “Ahh! What is that?!” Charlotte shouted, pointing at the felguard in the doorway. Torven backed into Charlotte’s bedroom, slamming the door shut as the demon entered the apartment.

“We need to get out of here!” he said frantically. Demons in Dalaran! Is nowhere safe anymore? The demon pounded on the door. Torven opened the door to the balcony and rushed over the edge, casting a slow fall spell on the both of them. A tug at his clothes quickly turned into a hand grasping his waist. It materialized out of thin air, yanking him back onto the balcony. Charlotte screamed as tendrils of shadow tore her from his arms. “Charlotte!” Torven shouted. More tendrils grasped him as well, pinning him to the side of the tower. The face of a void lord emerged beside him, staring him in the face. Looking in those eyes was like staring into an endless abyss. Charlotte was tucked into the demon’s other hand, still kicking and screaming, scared out of her wits. Torven was panicked, and trembling despite himself. A doomguard drifted out of the smoky air to hover in front of him. A figure shrouded in bloody black robes regarded him with eyes of burning gold. Black hair shivered in the gusty air beneath her hood. She grinned wickedly, eyes wide with murder.

“You must be the proud grandfather, hmm! That makes us kin!” Her hand lit with a fel green flame. Torven struggled to call on his magic to free him from the demon’s grip, but nothing happened. It was as if fear had prevented him from casting even the simplest spell. The warlock’s fire grew larger in her hand. “Allow me to…welcome you to the family, hmmm!!”

Parigan raced through the city streets, cutting down demons as he passed them. Terrified and surprised citizens watched with wide eyes as the city guard struggled to suppress the burrowing demons. Parigan ignored them all as he neared his destination. The spire was shrouded in the black fog. He couldn’t see what state it was in from here. Panic wormed its way into his breast. Charlotte, please be alright! It was unlike him to pray for anything, but he found himself desperate as he raced to the entrance of the tower. “Hold up! Get back here, you!” a familiar voice called from behind. Parigan glanced back, sighing in exasperation as the head guard from before rushed after him. “I know you had something to do with this, you traitor!” He brandished his claymore at him, swinging it about like an old man at some hoodlums on his front lawn.

“You idiot,” Parigan called back angrily, “Don’t you have a city to defend?” The guard huffed as he followed, “Indeed! And I’ll start with you, Legion scum!” Parigan shook his head and deigned to ignore the fool. That is, until he heard his shouts turn to screams. Looking again, he saw the man flat on his back, a fel hunter licking its chops in anticipation of a meal. Parigan grumbled impatiently, wondering to himself, What the hell would Brin do? He turned back and charged at the demon. The hunter snarled at him as he approached, and leaped as he grew near. His blade sliced the creature out of the air. Its body fell in two pieces on the stone path. Parigan hastily picked the guard off the ground, put the fallen claymore in his hand and said, “Fight the demons. Defend the city. Stop being a daft lummox!” The guard simply stared at him dully. He whirled and took off again. If that fool cost me my daughter, I swear I’ll skin him alive!

At the foot of the tower, a figure in a violet doublet lay motionless. Parigan sucked in a sharp breath as he recognized the figure as Brinnea’s father Torven. He was burned from head to toe, and a felbat was gnawing at his arm hungrily. Roaring, the warrior sliced the gluttonous bat apart and knelt to check the mage for any sign of life. Torven was breathing faintly. Parigan shook him gently. “C’mon old man, don’t die on me yet!” Torven gasped for air, his voice raspy from inhaling smoke. His body crackled green and sizzled from the burns. He reached out to Parigan, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Char—lotte. Taken…,” he rasped painfully. Parigan grimaced, his one eye wide with fear for the girl. “Who? Where?” he asked hastily. The mage shook his head. “Warlock. Hu—man. Woman. Flew…away.” He pointed weakly to his chest. Parigan noticed it was marked deliberately to look like a map. The burns resembled a string of island he once saw on a map in his father’s study. The Broken Isles. An “X” marked a spot on the map in the southernmost point of the largest island. He memorized the position. It might be his only chance of saving Charlotte. He took Torven’s hand in his own. “Thank you. I’m…sorry for everything I did to hurt your daughter, old man. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to save you today.” Torven shed a tear, but it evaporated on his burning skin. A final breath left his lips. Parigan bared his teeth angrily, and let out a cry of rage and pain.

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RiktheRed21    38

“Help!” a raggedy man in tattered rags screamed, struggling to keep running through the burning street of Moonbrook. “Somebody please, help!” A pack of felhunters stalked at his heels, close enough for him to feel the burn of their breath itching at his legs. He had no strength to run further. Then, suddenly a shadow dipped from the sky and a burst of air flattened the demons. A flying serpent with black scales crackling electrically flicked its tail back and forth as it hovered just above the ground. The air kicked up dirt, forcing the man to shield his eyes as he gazed up at the woman riding the beast.

Brinnea slid off her mount, urging him to fly out of sight for now, a phrase she had learned in Pandaren from the serpent riders. The beast nudged her playfully, awaiting something eagerly. Brinnea grinned and dug a side of beef from the dragon’s riding bag and tossed it into the air. The beast climbed into the sky, gulping down the meat greedily before taking off for the hills nearby. The transient she had rescued stared at her in awe. She turned to him with a warm smile. “Come with me,” she said calmly. “There’s a safehouse set up in the Deadmines. I’ll show you the way.” She extended a gauntleted hand. He reached for it carefully, nodding as if he didn’t speak Common. An ear-splitting roar drew Brin’s attention down the road. A mo’arg brute had caught sight of them and had begun to charge. The homeless man panicked and screamed as the huge demon closed in on them. The Death Knight put herself between the man and the demon, drawing a blade. “Not to worry. I’ve got this.”

The demon’s blade came down towards her, shattering the cobbles beneath where he feet had been. She slid past the demon’s leg and sliced it open with a frost-tinged blade. The monster roared in pain, swinging about wildly to catch the elusive knight. The back of his huge hand struck Brin in the head, knocking her to the ground with a thud and a grunt. She pushed herself off the ground as a heavy foot crashed down on the ground with the intention of crushing her. Dark blood was dripping through her hair, but she paid it no heed. Instead, she tossed a blast of frost into the demon’s eyes. Expecting another wild assault, she stepped back, narrowly avoiding a swing of the huge sword. Then, she lunged forward, freezing a lance of ice at the tip of her sword, and impaled the demon’s chest where its heart should be. Judging by the monster’s jarring spasm, her strike did the trick. It collapsed in a heap between Brin and the terrified man.

With a quick glance around, she saw no more demons in the area. She wiped her blade clean with a hand, using a rune to fling the fel blood off her hand magically. Then, she sheathed it. She gestured for the man to follow her, offering her hand again. He took it much more quickly this time.

Within the Deadmines, Esmerra tended to the wounded folks from around Moonbrook. She’d called her troops to Westfall from Stormwind when the demons had begun invading, and focused their efforts on relief for the common folk. The Stormwind military was focused on defending Sentinel Hill, a valuable military target, but the local farms and towns were left largely undefended as waves of Legion forces rained down on their rooftops. King Greymane had begun rally troops for a new offensive, so until they were prepared, Esmerra awaited word here. Brinnea had been happy to join her, and besides, needed a place to keep the Grim prisoner. Neither of them wanted any of the attention it would bring if it got out to the Alliance or Horde they were keeping a Horde shaman as a captive.

Brinnea entered the cave with a new refugee following closely behind her. Esmerra smiled weakly at her older sister. It had been a long day healing many who didn’t make it, or didn’t stay in one piece. It weighed heavily in her mind. What was worse was both Walther and Gorbin, her retainers, had gone missing on the Broken Shore. She knew that should mean they were dead, but not knowing for certain made her feel more miserable. Brinnea kneeled beside Esmerra, and the man she was with sat, taking a deep brief of relief. Brinnea spoke, “Es, this is Pieter. Pieter, this is my sister Esmerra. She’ll take good care of you until the demon’s siege breaks.” Esmerra offered him the most welcoming smile she could muster. He smiled back, his cheeks flushing at the sight of her. Esmerra was, by all rights, a beautiful young woman, with flawless tanned skin, an hourglass figure, and long, silky black hair. Her bright brown eyes held a sparkle of mystery, enough to send goose-prickles down most men’s arms. She’d grown used to it, though she never let herself get too attached to anyone who sought to win her hand in marriage. She hadn’t found the right man for her yet.

Brin put a hand on her shoulder. “Moonbrook’s clearing up,” she said. “The portals around the perimeter have been torn down. Of course, new ones could pop up at any time, but for now we’ll have some quiet.”

Esmerra put a hand on Brin’s. She replied, “Thank you. You’re making a difference for these people.” Brinnea shook her head, saying, “Nonsense. I just clean up the messes. You save their lives. In any case, I should get back out there. There’s a few more farms I haven’t checked yet.”

Esmerra tugged the Death Knight’s gauntlet as she rose. “Wait,” the young druid said, “There was a report brought in by one of my mages. He just came from Dalaran to listen in on the Kirin Tor’s news, and he said the city was attacked. The demons were repelled, but…I think you should go there. Charlotte, your father…and Parigan; they could be hurt.” She said the last name with reluctance. There was still a rift between her and her older brother since he had sided with the Forsaken in the war for Gilneas. He’d been the one to cut off their brother’s head when the Forsaken stormed the city. He was the one who put a dagger in their father’s heart. She couldn’t get the sight of either of them out of her mind. She knew Parigan was trying to do right by her, to make up for everything the war had done to tear them apart, but she just couldn’t bring herself to forgive him.

Brinnea’s icy gaze drifted to the dirt-covered stone floor. With reluctance, she stood. “Yes, I should return. It has been…too long already. I’m sure they are alright. Parigan would never let anything happen to Charlotte.” Esmerra called for her mage, who blinked into the scene quickly. He opened a portal to Dalaran and motioned for her to step through. Keeping her nerves about her, the Death Knight stepped into the city…

Parigan sat at the foot of the apartment spire, his sword leaning against the wall beside him. The mages were already reconstructing and cleaning from the attack the day prior. Most of the damage had already been swept under the rug, as if nothing had happened. Torven’s body was taken to the city morgue for examination and preparation for burial. The guards had recognized him, but they did not apprehend him. He could tell they were keeping a close eye on his location, though. His mind wandered, trying to think of how to tell his wife that he’d lost her father and their daughter in the same day. Nothing seemed proper, nothing he could say would ever prevent the sorrow and anger she would feel. But since he did not know where she was, all he could do was wait for her to return, to find the home she had put together for their family empty but for him. Completely empty, actually, since he did not have the heart to climb those stairs again, only to find the place silent and dead.

“Pari?” a voice softly called to him from down the street. He looked up, surprised to see Brinnea standing before him, her armor badly damaged from battle and scorched by fire. Apprehension marked her usually calm demeanor. He stood and, leaving his blade behind him, ran forward and took her in his arms.

“I’m so sorry, my love…she took them. That witch Cynthia stole our daughter…and killed your father. And I…I wasn’t there to protect them!” A sob hopped from his throat, and tears rained from his left eye unbidden. It would have struck him as odd once again that tears could even be produced from his rotting corpse of a body, but at that moment, no thought sprang forth but that of those he’d failed. Torven, Charlotte, Brinnea, and so many others. Brinnea pulled away, her hands on his arms. She looked up into his one good eye with her glistening, beautifully glowing eyes. She said, “Shhh, it’s alright, love. You did all you could. I know you did.” Sniffling, he pulled her back for another embrace. She was strong when he couldn’t be. She was forgiving when his rage or fear got the better of him. He loved her all the more for it.

“I know where she is,” he breathed softly in her ear. “That…vile bitch left a map leading right to her. A trap, I know. But it’s all we got.” Brinnea nodded into his chest. “We’ll get her back. I know it. Let’s go inside. She’ll want her room ready, for when she comes home.” They walked up the stairs together.

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Kazarak    0

When Kazarak awoke, the first thing he was aware of was the pain. Though his right arm, or the stump that remained of it, had been bandaged and treated, it still throbbed agonizingly, sending waves of sharp pain across his weary body. His armor and tabard were nowhere to be seen. All his supplies, bags, weapons, and his mask had been taken from him. He wore a vest and pants that had been fitted to his size perfectly, but they were void of any items or recognizable features to tell him anything useful. For all he knew, a troll could have stitched them, or a gnome, or any number of mortal races. Next, he noticed his remaining arm was shackled by the wrist, and chained to his legs. He could stretch out enough to stand if he moved carefully, but any attempt to do so resulted in a biting pain in his arm. Shoulder, he reminded himself grimly. That arm is gone so you could live. Don’t let your mind drag you back to the past.

Prior to having awoken, his spirit had drifted from his body, as it was accustomed to whenever he lost consciousness these days. In the spirit world, he’d seen darkness unlike anything he’d ever witnessed before. It seemed even on the other side, the Legion’s presence was felt by all. The spirits had either abandoned him there, or were hiding from him as if he were tainted. Hell, maybe I am. The demon’s poison is subtle sometimes. My life may be forfeit already. Time will tell. Kaz didn’t intend to wait until time told him bad news. He called on the element of wind and blew cold air from his mouth to chill the steel that bound him. He could feel the chill biting his wrists and ankles after a few minutes. The fatigue made his connection to the elements foggy and distant, but he managed to shatter the cuffs with enough effort.

He slowly lifted himself to his feet, adjusting to his new center of balance. Nausea erupted from his innards, and he doubled over, coughing up whatever had been in his stomach. For the life of him, he couldn’t recall his last meal being so recent. Whoever had taken him prisoner wanted him alive. That didn’t reassure him to stay and wait until they came and found him awake. Kaz regained his composure and wobbled clumsily to a barred door at the far end of the cave. He pressed his ear to the door, in part to listen to what was happening outside, and also to rest his already tiring body. From behind the door, he heard muffled boots scuffling along a rock floor. He sniffed the air, and recognized the distinct scent of humans, and some worgen. The elements could heighten his senses this way, but he would have given much to have the senses of a druid at that moment. A shapeshifter with enough practice could tell how many foes were behind the door by smell alone. He could discern only that there were many. He took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts, and all the power from the world around him he could muster. Then he drew his leg back, and kicked with the fury of the storms, blowing the door open. Kaz nearly fell over with the effort. He grimaced. That much power should have blown it off its hinges. He tried to change form into a ghost wolf, but found his spiritual powers would not respond. He bolted out the door, and hid behind the open door, looking towards his right, where the door offered him no cover first. Guards stared at him, hands on their swords. The Gilnean sigil sat proudly on their chests. Kaz clenched his teeth and growled with effort as he peeled off the door and scrambled in the opposite direction. The guards shouted at him to stop. Kaz replied by tossing a sloppy burst of air back at them. He knew it didn’t hit anything based on the lack of pained grunting.

The direction he’d run in was littered with humans wearing rags being treated by priests dressed in darkly covered robes. They all gaped at him as if they didn’t know he had been there in the first place. A woman in a black leathers wearing a gold-trimmed Gilnean tabard stared at him with deep brown eyes full of not fear or anger, but concern. He ignored them all and bolted past, calling on the winds to keep him upright. His vision started to grow foggy and bloody dribbled from his mouth, but he never stopped running.

A lone night elf sat on a pile of demon carcasses in the middle of a crisp, fel-scorched Westfall field as the sun began to set. The wind was picking up, spreading fel ashes down the hill her kills had been laid upon. Two glaives, twins, sat shining in the dimming light of the sun, buried in the flesh of the most recent demons killed. The Azeroth sun was warmer than she remembered; it gave her comfort where in Outland and Mardum she had felt cold and alone at all times. It was good to be home. Only a week had passed since Maiev, the Warden, had released the Illidari from their prisons. It had been a long isolation. But not nearly as long as the imprisonment she had suffered for the crime of protecting her people. Still, Shanoris despised having her freedom taken from her. She swore she’d never set foot in another prison.

It had been a fight through hell just to escape the last one, and the fight hadn’t stopped since. Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad, Tanaris, Azshara, and the Barrens. They were all different from what she remembered. Even more so now that the demons were raining down on them. It was like the War of the Ancients all over again. It delighted her. It made her feel purpose again. An odd thought, the world teetering on the brink of destruction, not knowing if anyone she loved was still alive, and here she sat, waist-deep in demon blood. She felt alive.

“Aaaagh!” Shanoris’ pointed ears twitched at the sound. She sensed one of the local farmers had fallen to the ground, holding his wrist, which was apparently broken. He backed off slowly from what appeared to be a troll. She grinned happily. A new hunt. It’s been a while since I hunted troll. She sprang off her pile, scooping her glaives from the flesh of the dead in a swift motion. She sprinted, a blur in anyone else’s eyes. She got behind the troll. He had a hatchet in his hand. His only hand. The man’s missing an arm, and wobbly besides. She licked her lips. I might be able to have some fun with this one…

She tossed her glaives, one after the other, to land between the troll and the human. The armed man whirled to face her, clumsy with exhaustion. “A…Demon Hunter?” he asked in Darnassian, which surprised Shanoris. She’d never met a troll that spoke the same language as her. She smelled elemental energy about him, as well. Curious one, isn’t he? She thought playfully. “Haven’t gotten the news yet, savage? The Illidari walk amongst you once more!” she offered him a mocking bow as she spoke. The troll spat blood on the dead grass. “You’re full…of yourself…more than…you’re full of fel.” He spoke slowly, but not as if he were a simpleton. More like a man with a throat injury. She noticed the remnants of damage in his vocal cords, and not just physical. Very curious.

She leaped into the air with a flip, her foot brought down on his upraised axe. It fell from his grip, only to be scooped up by the elf. The troll backed up warily. The wind picked up about him. Aww, how cute. He needs the air to keep himself upright. She tossed the axe in the air, catching it by the head of the shaft, then tossed it again. She kept that up to taunt him, daring the troll to try and take it. “I don’t think this belongs to you,” she said, as if scolding a child. “Tsk tsk tsk, what a nasty boy you’ve been! Stealing in the middle of a war, from a man defending his home. Somebody needs to teach you a lesson in proper manners.” The troll reached his hand out, tossing a ball of fire conjured from thin air. Shanoris sidestepped lazily, allowing the spell to set the nearby ground ablaze. She stamped it out with a few swift kicks. The air shifted, trying to take the axe from her. The troll charged forward to meet it as it fell from her hand. Shanoris grinned cockily, then kicked the axe to the shaft bashed the troll in the chin, nearly knocking him completely off balance. Shanoris ducked behind him before he could regain his feet, catching his ankle with a foot and swept his leg out from under him. He crashed into the ground, and lay spread-eagled, stirring slowly.

Shanoris picked the fallen axe off the ground and handed it to the bewildered farmer with a cheeky smile. “I believe Sentinel Hill would be a bit safer than out here,” she said. “But, my farm…,” he stammered. “You can rebuild it. But you only have one life. Run along now. You can fight again another day.” Reluctantly, he ran off. By then, the troll was only on his knees. “By Elune, what in Azeroth happened to you? You’re a mess!” The troll snarled at her in response. Then he tossed a spear of earth from the ground at her. She spun, grabbing it, and threw it back at him. He dove out of the way, but it glanced his ribcage on the left side. He charged at her again. She grabbed his tusk and tripped him, ripping it off roughly before planting him face-first into the ground. She examined the tusk, a short stub of troll ivory, roughly cracked by her quick display of force. She flexed her biceps where the fallen troll could see her. “Not as scrawny as I look, huh?” The troll’s hand crackled with electricity. “Fuck…off…” he said feebly. Shanoris raised an eyebrow. A root rose from the ground and pinned his hand down. The electric crackles ceased. The rest of his body was tried up with entangling roots.

“Enough! Both of you!” a young voice called in the Common tongue. Shanoris turned. A beauty of a human girl was running her way, joined by at least a dozen armed escorts. Judging by the billowing black cloak whipping in the wind behind her, she must have been some sort of nobility. She had hair almost as silky smooth and jet-black as Shanoris’. Almost. “Leave him be, he’s sick and injured from battle. He needs rest!” the lady said in a demanding, yet gentle voice. The elf tossed his tusk up in the air and caught it. She replied, “He was hurting an innocent man when I found him. Doesn’t seem he wants to rest.”

The lady looked at Shanoris and then the troll. “He’s a prisoner. My prisoner. I won’t see him harmed while he’s still recovering. He lost his arm fighting the Legion, and he deserves respect for his sacrifice.” Shanoris’s face twisted into a grin as she faked a laugh. “Hah! An honored prisoner! My mistake, milady. I didn’t realize how important this savage was to you.”

“Call me…savage again!” the troll threatened, writhing beneath the vines. “Call me that again…and I’ll--“ his voice cut off into sputtering, hacking coughs. Shanoris scoffed. “You’ll what? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of you choking to death.”

The lady released the vines, and her guards picked the troll up gently, but kept a steady grip in case he tried something. Shanoris could smell their nerves. Even wounded, they were afraid of him. I’ve stumbled on a rather fascinating individual. He must have quite the reputation among the Alliance if even wounded and crippled, they fear him. “What is your name, Illidari?” the lady asked her. “I saw how you fight. I was impressed. Shanoris felt the praise wash over her. She thrived on it. The elf walked over to her glaives with all the grace of a dancer and picked them up, fluidly strapping them to the harness on her back. “Shanoris Fargaze,” she presented herself like a work of art to be beloved. “Illidari, hunter of demons, slayer of men in more ways than one!” She dipped into another mockery of a bow. “At your service.”

The lady smiled, amused. She replied, “Lady Esmerra Blackmane, of Gilneas. Shanoris Fargaze, how would you like a new job?” Shanoris said, “I’m listening.”

When Kazarak awoke, the first thing he was aware of was the pain. Though his right arm, or the stump that remained of it, had been bandaged and treated, it still throbbed agonizingly, sending waves of sharp pain across his weary body. His armor and tabard were nowhere to be seen. All his supplies, bags, weapons, and his mask had been taken from him. He wore a vest and pants that had been fitted to his size perfectly, but they were void of any items or recognizable features to tell him anything useful. For all he knew, a troll could have stitched them, or a gnome, or any number of mortal races. Next, he noticed his remaining arm was shackled by the wrist, and chained to his legs. He could stretch out enough to stand if he moved carefully, but any attempt to do so resulted in a biting pain in his arm. Shoulder, he reminded himself grimly. That arm is gone so you could live. Don’t let your mind drag you back to the past.

Prior to having awoken, his spirit had drifted from his body, as it was accustomed to whenever he lost consciousness these days. In the spirit world, he’d seen darkness unlike anything he’d ever witnessed before. It seemed even on the other side, the Legion’s presence was felt by all. The spirits had either abandoned him there, or were hiding from him as if he were tainted. Hell, maybe I am. The demon’s poison is subtle sometimes. My life may be forfeit already. Time will tell. Kaz didn’t intend to wait until time told him bad news. He called on the element of wind and blew cold air from his mouth to chill the steel that bound him. He could feel the chill biting his wrists and ankles after a few minutes. The fatigue made his connection to the elements foggy and distant, but he managed to shatter the cuffs with enough effort.

He slowly lifted himself to his feet, adjusting to his new center of balance. Nausea erupted from his innards, and he doubled over, coughing up whatever had been in his stomach. For the life of him, he couldn’t recall his last meal being so recent. Whoever had taken him prisoner wanted him alive. That didn’t reassure him to stay and wait until they came and found him awake. Kaz regained his composure and wobbled clumsily to a barred door at the far end of the cave. He pressed his ear to the door, in part to listen to what was happening outside, and also to rest his already tiring body. From behind the door, he heard muffled boots scuffling along a rock floor. He sniffed the air, and recognized the distinct scent of humans, and some worgen. The elements could heighten his senses this way, but he would have given much to have the senses of a druid at that moment. A shapeshifter with enough practice could tell how many foes were behind the door by smell alone. He could discern only that there were many. He took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts, and all the power from the world around him he could muster. Then he drew his leg back, and kicked with the fury of the storms, blowing the door open. Kaz nearly fell over with the effort. He grimaced. That much power should have blown it off its hinges. He tried to change form into a ghost wolf, but found his spiritual powers would not respond. He bolted out the door, and hid behind the open door, looking towards his right, where the door offered him no cover first. Guards stared at him, hands on their swords. The Gilnean sigil sat proudly on their chests. Kaz clenched his teeth and growled with effort as he peeled off the door and scrambled in the opposite direction. The guards shouted at him to stop. Kaz replied by tossing a sloppy burst of air back at them. He knew it didn’t hit anything based on the lack of pained grunting.

The direction he’d run in was littered with humans wearing rags being treated by priests dressed in darkly covered robes. They all gaped at him as if they didn’t know he had been there in the first place. A woman in a black leathers wearing a gold-trimmed Gilnean tabard stared at him with deep brown eyes full of not fear or anger, but concern. He ignored them all and bolted past, calling on the winds to keep him upright. His vision started to grow foggy and bloody dribbled from his mouth, but he never stopped running.

A lone night elf sat on a pile of demon carcasses in the middle of a crisp, fel-scorched Westfall field as the sun began to set. The wind was picking up, spreading fel ashes down the hill her kills had been laid upon. Two glaives, twins, sat shining in the dimming light of the sun, buried in the flesh of the most recent demons killed. The Azeroth sun was warmer than she remembered; it gave her comfort where in Outland and Mardum she had felt cold and alone at all times. It was good to be home. Only a week had passed since Maiev, the Warden, had released the Illidari from their prisons. It had been a long isolation. But not nearly as long as the imprisonment she had suffered for the crime of protecting her people. Still, Shanoris despised having her freedom taken from her. She swore she’d never set foot in another prison.

It had been a fight through hell just to escape the last one, and the fight hadn’t stopped since. Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad, Tanaris, Azshara, and the Barrens. They were all different from what she remembered. Even more so now that the demons were raining down on them. It was like the War of the Ancients all over again. It delighted her. It made her feel purpose again. An odd thought, the world teetering on the brink of destruction, not knowing if anyone she loved was still alive, and here she sat, waist-deep in demon blood. She felt alive.

“Aaaagh!” Shanoris’ pointed ears twitched at the sound. She sensed one of the local farmers had fallen to the ground, holding his wrist, which was apparently broken. He backed off slowly from what appeared to be a troll. She grinned happily. A new hunt. It’s been a while since I hunted troll. She sprang off her pile, scooping her glaives from the flesh of the dead in a swift motion. She sprinted, a blur in anyone else’s eyes. She got behind the troll. He had a hatchet in his hand. His only hand. The man’s missing an arm, and wobbly besides. She licked her lips. I might be able to have some fun with this one…

She tossed her glaives, one after the other, to land between the troll and the human. The armed man whirled to face her, clumsy with exhaustion. “A…Demon Hunter?” he asked in Darnassian, which surprised Shanoris. She’d never met a troll that spoke the same language as her. She smelled elemental energy about him, as well. Curious one, isn’t he? She thought playfully. “Haven’t gotten the news yet, savage? The Illidari walk amongst you once more!” she offered him a mocking bow as she spoke. The troll spat blood on the dead grass. “You’re full…of yourself…more than…you’re full of fel.” He spoke slowly, but not as if he were a simpleton. More like a man with a throat injury. She noticed the remnants of damage in his vocal cords, and not just physical. Very curious.

She leaped into the air with a flip, her foot brought down on his upraised axe. It fell from his grip, only to be scooped up by the elf. The troll backed up warily. The wind picked up about him. Aww, how cute. He needs the air to keep himself upright. She tossed the axe in the air, catching it by the head of the shaft, then tossed it again. She kept that up to taunt him, daring the troll to try and take it. “I don’t think this belongs to you,” she said, as if scolding a child. “Tsk tsk tsk, what a nasty boy you’ve been! Stealing in the middle of a war, from a man defending his home. Somebody needs to teach you a lesson in proper manners.” The troll reached his hand out, tossing a ball of fire conjured from thin air. Shanoris sidestepped lazily, allowing the spell to set the nearby ground ablaze. She stamped it out with a few swift kicks. The air shifted, trying to take the axe from her. The troll charged forward to meet it as it fell from her hand. Shanoris grinned cockily, then kicked the axe to the shaft bashed the troll in the chin, nearly knocking him completely off balance. Shanoris ducked behind him before he could regain his feet, catching his ankle with a foot and swept his leg out from under him. He crashed into the ground, and lay spread-eagled, stirring slowly.

Shanoris picked the fallen axe off the ground and handed it to the bewildered farmer with a cheeky smile. “I believe Sentinel Hill would be a bit safer than out here,” she said. “But, my farm…,” he stammered. “You can rebuild it. But you only have one life. Run along now. You can fight again another day.” Reluctantly, he ran off. By then, the troll was only on his knees. “By Elune, what in Azeroth happened to you? You’re a mess!” The troll snarled at her in response. Then he tossed a spear of earth from the ground at her. She spun, grabbing it, and threw it back at him. He dove out of the way, but it glanced his ribcage on the left side. He charged at her again. She grabbed his tusk and tripped him, ripping it off roughly before planting him face-first into the ground. She examined the tusk, a short stub of troll ivory, roughly cracked by her quick display of force. She flexed her biceps where the fallen troll could see her. “Not as scrawny as I look, huh?” The troll’s hand crackled with electricity. “Fuck…off…” he said feebly. Shanoris raised an eyebrow. A root rose from the ground and pinned his hand down. The electric crackles ceased. The rest of his body was tried up with entangling roots.

“Enough! Both of you!” a young voice called in the Common tongue. Shanoris turned. A beauty of a human girl was running her way, joined by at least a dozen armed escorts. Judging by the billowing black cloak whipping in the wind behind her, she must have been some sort of nobility. She had hair almost as silky smooth and jet-black as Shanoris’. Almost. “Leave him be, he’s sick and injured from battle. He needs rest!” the lady said in a demanding, yet gentle voice. The elf tossed his tusk up in the air and caught it. She replied, “He was hurting an innocent man when I found him. Doesn’t seem he wants to rest.”

The lady looked at Shanoris and then the troll. “He’s a prisoner. My prisoner. I won’t see him harmed while he’s still recovering. He lost his arm fighting the Legion, and he deserves respect for his sacrifice.” Shanoris’s face twisted into a grin as she faked a laugh. “Hah! An honored prisoner! My mistake, milady. I didn’t realize how important this savage was to you.”

“Call me…savage again!” the troll threatened, writhing beneath the vines. “Call me that again…and I’ll--“ his voice cut off into sputtering, hacking coughs. Shanoris scoffed. “You’ll what? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of you choking to death.”

The lady released the vines, and her guards picked the troll up gently, but kept a steady grip in case he tried something. Shanoris could smell their nerves. Even wounded, they were afraid of him. I’ve stumbled on a rather fascinating individual. He must have quite the reputation among the Alliance if even wounded and crippled, they fear him. “What is your name, Illidari?” the lady asked her. “I saw how you fight. I was impressed. Shanoris felt the praise wash over her. She thrived on it. The elf walked over to her glaives with all the grace of a dancer and picked them up, fluidly strapping them to the harness on her back. “Shanoris Fargaze,” she presented herself like a work of art to be beloved. “Illidari, hunter of demons, slayer of men in more ways than one!” She dipped into another mockery of a bow. “At your service.”

The lady smiled, amused. She replied, “Lady Esmerra Blackmane, of Gilneas. Shanoris Fargaze, how would you like a new job?” Shanoris said, “I’m listening.”

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RiktheRed21    38

Brinnea flew back into a hellstorm when she returned to Dalaran from her meeting with General Larmont. The demons hadn’t stopped their assault after several days. Whatever Khadgar had brought from his trip to Karazhan, it was drawing them relentlessly down upon the city. Brin had told Parigan to rest a while, and tend to his wounds when last they spoke. She wouldn’t be gone long, she had said. Brinnea hadn’t expected to be gone so long. Might be Pari had gone back to the fight. He needed the outlet for his rage. Loosing Charlotte, and her father… it had been difficult for him. Brinnea dipped her cloud serpent toward her apartment balcony and leapt onto it quickly, allowing her mount to retreat out of harm’s way. She steeled herself to face Parigan, if he was even here. Her conversation with the General and her cousin had left her mentally drained. Learning of her former comrades’ suffering had broken her in ways she didn’t think was even possible anymore. She needed the outlet just as much as her husband did.

The Death Knight unlocked the balcony door and stepped in. Cynthia sat on her couch. The warlock’s gleaming golden eyes regarded her with amusement, and her black lipsticked mouth parted with a toothy, triumphant grin. Brinnea’s frozen heart unfroze, skipped a beat, and froze again. Her expression twisted from shock, to anger. The witch spoke to her casually, as if enjoying a lovely conversation with an old friend, “Hello darling, hmm. It’s been…too long.” Brin’s blades were in her hands and out of their sheathes before Cynthia could get another word in. She didn’t have to, though. The next thing Brinnea noticed was Parigan standing beside the couch, his sword resting against the neck of a kneeling man she didn’t recognize. Two more unknown people kneeled beside the first, all lined up for a clean triple decapitation. She stopped in her tracks, confused and betrayed face eyeing the man she loved. It doesn’t…make sense…none of it. Her thoughts raced maddeningly. The witch’s voice cut through her thoughts like a knife, “Please, none of that. Your guests are already…on edge, hmm?”

Brinnea spat her reply, “What the hell is going on here?!” The witch’s smile never wavered. It drove a red-hot spike into Brinnea’s mind. She wanted nothing more than to let herself go and tear her apart. It took everything to hold herself back. Cynthia replied calmly, still stuck in her own little world, “I wanted to visit you, hmm. You seem lonely, from everything my spies tell me.” Brin’s eye twitched. She went on, “Ever since you cut your way through that village. That did wonders for ruining your career in being a peacewalker…”

“My life is none of your fucking business, you deranged--,” she was cut off by the sound of Parigan’s false hand falling away, revealing the cannon beneath it. His face was masked behind his faceplate. Cynthia went on, “Such language, hmm? Not a safe place to raise a young child. I should know, I had five of them. All wonderful young boys and girls. But they all died.” She made an overly exaggerated sigh and said, “Such is the way of things, isn’t it? At least my darling Mayes survived that war, hmm. But he betrayed me.” Brinnea stared at her, afraid to move, or speak, or think. The witch had a way to get into her mind that baffled and horrified her. She waited until finally, she continued, “Oh! You wanted to know why I’m here, hmm? Well, it’s quite simple, isn’t it?” Cynthia stood from the couch, hands spread wide. Brinnea flinched, desperately keeping herself from moving more than an inch. “I missed you! You were oh-so-entertaining to watch those years ago. Chasing after ghost stories in the cold desert.”

“If I remember correctly,” Brinnea began carefully, barely a whisper above her breath, “That all ended…when you stabbed me in the back.” Cynthia scoffed. “Still holding on to that, I see. Well, I’m sorry to hear that. I hoped we could move past it.” Brinnea interjected, voice raised back to normal volume, “Maybe we could have, but you took my daughter. You killed—my—father.”

“But he deserved it didn’t he?” Brinnea’s body went numb. Cynthia stood in front of her, her every atom insulting Brin. “You told me what he did to you, hmm. As a child. To you and your family. He had this coming for a long time. And your daughter…Charlotte. My spies tell me you’ve been distancing yourself for her sake. I assure you, hmm, she’ll be much better off with me.” Brinnea’s will broke. She drove her swords at the witch’s midsection, but hit only air. She vanished, leaving behind a pile of hot ash. Her voice called to her from back on the couch, “Still with the anger, tut tut. Your man is getting impatient too. So, I’ll cut to the point. My masters rain fire upon your home, and soon you’ll have a question to answer. A very important one. What would you do to save your daughter?”

Brinnea gritted her teeth. “Anything. There’s your Light-damned answer, witch. What did you do to my husband?” Cynthia sighed. “You are such a bore, hmm,” she said in mock frustration. She flicked her wrist and from behind the sofa a skull floated, its eyes glowing purple. It seemed to be a talisman or a magic source of some sort. Cynthia stroked the skull as if it were some pet. “This…is Keridthidus, the Dreadweaver. He was a brilliant demon, until some elf slew him in the nether and made a trophy of his skull. I retrieved it, naturally, proving my worth to the Legion. Oh, and for good measure I made the demon hunter my pawn. The skull still has some of the demon’s magic in it. He was talented at making mortals do what he wanted. One word, a snap of his fingers—“ she waved a hand at Parigan. His grip on that massive blade of his wavered, then tightened again. Brinnea felt a slither of hope. He’s still with me. If only I could free him…

“So that’s your plan, huh?” Brinnea said. “Get both of us condemned to prison, only for us to escape, thus making us both enemies of our factions. We’ll have nothing and no one left to support us as we fight our way through the Broken Isles to take our daughter back from the clutches of the Legion. A tale worthy of the bards!” she finished with mock enthusiasm. “I’m certain at the end of it all, you’ll have a big, fiery rock to crush our bittersweet ending like the sociopath you are.” Cynthia laughed, a boisterous guffaw. “What a plan! Did you come up with that just now? My my, your mind works fast, hmm. But no. And unfortunately, I can’t tell you of my plans just yet. Word from on high. If you have a problem with my methodology, my friends are just outside. Take it up with them, hmm?” Another abyssal crashed into the floating city just to prove her point. Cynthia continued, “In any event, I have more business to attend to. Pari, dear, clean up the mess, hmm?” Parigan brought his sword back. Brinnea threw herself against him. The two of them tumbled to the ground. A flicker of flame marked Cynthia’s swift exit.

“Fight her control, Pari! You’re stronger than her!” proving her point, Parigan threw her off him. She barreled over the living room table. Parigan raised his blade to crush the screaming hostages with an overhead strike. Brinnea leveled herself and blasted him with cold air. Enough to freeze him in place, mid-strike. She moved fast and untied the prisoners, telling them to get out as fast as they could. They ran, and Parigan crashed his way out of the ice. Brin stood between him and those escaping. She spoke to him with a level voice, “You planning on going through me, Pari?” He yelled, raising his blade. She dropped hers. He paused. She continued, “Think about our daughter, Pari. I know I do when I lose myself. Picture her, you have to!” He roared, swinging his blade.

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RiktheRed21    38

“I am grateful you didn’t chop me in half,” Brinnea said, sitting beside Parigan as the pair of them leaned against the wall, looking over the ruins of their living room. “But did you have to hit the couch? You know Esmerra is going to make you pay for a new one.” Parigan chuckled: a sad, tired noise that tried to be mirthful. “Only if you tell her I did it. You could just as easily say it was a demon, or that bitch of a warlock.” It had been an hour since Parigan had regained control. It seemed Cynthia’s little toy could not keep people under control from too far away. That was reassuring. The fact that Parigan had lost all sense of himself just by looking it in the eye was problematic. The last thing the witch needed was to control people wholly. She already did a bang-up job of manipulating without the use of magic.

A knock came at the door. Parigan scooped up his sword as he stood. Brinnea approached the door cautiously, and called, “Who’s there?” From behind the door, a woman’s voice called back with an air of demanding about it, “Archmage Doreah Vergan, Kirin Tor Investigator. Open the door, please. I would very much dislike forcing it off its hinges.” Brinnea looked back at Parigan, who shrugged, his weapon still in hand. The Death Knight opened the door, regarding the tall woman outside carefully. She was built handsomely, with a broad face, proud features, and tanned skin to match her dusty brown hair. She was well-trimmed and wore the violet and gold of the Kirin Tor upon her robes. The eye symbol of the mages of Dalaran marked her forehead, which was tilted upwards so she was always looking down at the subject of her gaze. Brinnea was rather less than impressed, but simply said, “How may I help you, madam?”

The mage entered the room without asking, barely paying Parigan more than a second’s glance despite the greatsword in his hand. Brinnea closed the door and turned to face the woman as she spoke again, “Your home is rather disheveled. I assume this has to do with the fantastical story I heard only moments ago from those who were taken prisoner here?” Brinnea’s eyebrows raised. “Fantastical? You don’t believe the witch brainwashed my husband?” Doreah sniffed, saying, “My dear, your husband is a murderer who evaded custody of our police force only days ago. The only reason isn’t in the Violet Hold now is due to Watcher Severus’ claim that Mr. Blackmane was wrongly accused. A ludicrous attempt to cover up for his mistake in not capturing your husband, but nevertheless— “

“Why don’t you skip to the point,” Parigan interjected impatiently. “I don’t like being insulted by strange women.” The mage sniffed again, regarding the undead man with disdain written across her face. “The point, Mr. Blackmane, is you are no longer welcome in this city. You have caused enough fuss already, and the demons must be our only concern at present. Since the Watchers claim you have been aiding them in fighting the Legion, you are free to leave. But you must never return to Dalaran again, unless the Council issues an official pardon. I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you.” Parigan scowled at the woman, and Brinnea worried things might get out of hand if left unchecked now. “Surely there must be some way we can—“

“Fine, I’ll go,” Parigan interjected. Brin’s jaw dropped. She had never known him to be so accepting of someone forcing him to do anything, much less force him to abandon his home. He continued, “I’ll be out of your hair by tomorrow. Just need to pack some things for my journey.” The mage guarded her expression, but her eyes betrayed a hint of surprise as well. She nodded to Parigan. “Very well. I assure you I’ll be keeping a close eye on you until that happens.” She snapped her fingers and vanished in a flash of light. Parigan scoffed, muttering about show-offs and mages.

Brinnea watched Parigan go into the other room to gather his belongings. She called to him from the living room, “Are you really leaving? Now of all times?” Parigan carried on packing, but replied, “You heard what she said. I’m not welcome here. And to be honest, I can barely sit still long enough to feel like I’m home. I have to go fight my own war now.” Brinnea stepped into the master bedroom where his possessions had been stored. She grabbed his shoulders from behind, straining to keep tears from welling up in her eyes. “But why?” she asked. “Why do you have to go alone? I’m here for you, no matter what.”

“No,” he said clearly, shrugging her hands off his shoulders. Brin stepped back as if she had been struck in the face. Parigan spoke again, “Where I go, you must not follow. And you need to get back to Esmerra. I don’t belong with the Gilneans anymore. They won’t accept me.” Brin’s face lit up with anger. “I’ll make them accept you! They trust me, now. Why won’t you at least try?” Parigan shoved a compact crossbow roughly into his belt bag, his frustration clearly showing. “After everything I did to them, they would never fight alongside me again. Even Esmerra refuses to forgive me, and rightly so. I murdered our father, Brin. I drove a dagger into his heart! It doesn’t matter that it was war, that we were enemies. I betrayed them. And I belong with my own kind now.” He turned, leaving his half-packed bag on the king bed behind him. He took Brinnea’s hand in his and looked her in the eyes. She couldn’t hold back the tears now. They froze as the drifted down her pale cheeks.

“What if we never see each other again?” Brinnea asked, her voice of steel trembling. “How will we save Charlotte if not together?” Parigan wiped her icy tears away, and gave her a confident smile, saying, “We have to take the Isles first. You and Esmerra can lead the Blackmane bannermen into combat. Raise the sigil of our house once more, and show the Legion not to trifle with a true noble family!” Brinnea breathed a laugh, hugging Parigan with all her strength. “You make me sound like a knight from one of Father’s stories. Whatever will I do without you, Pari?”

“You’ll become greater than any knight, my love. When we meet next, you will have earned a place in history as Brinnea, Legion’s Bane. And we will find our daughter together. Until then, I have some old friends to bother in the Undercity.”

And so it was, the next day, that the two departed the floating city, each headed down different paths. Parigan flew north from Deadwind Pass towards the dead lands of Lordaeron, and Tirisfal. Brinnea returned to Westfall to find Esmerra, and prepare for the trials ahead. She wondered to herself, as she had a thousand times before, if the war would ever end. If she and Parigan and Charlotte could ever live as a family, peacefully. No, she answered herself, the war’s end is but a fable. There is no end to the fighting. To the struggle for survival. But there are moments of peace, in which we may build something that will last through every war to come. May that peace come to us soon.

Cynthia watched through an Observer’s eyes as Brinnea and Parigan went their separate ways. She smiled to herself, amused by how predictable her little playthings were. She opened her true eyes and cast her gaze on the chamber around her. It had been elegantly crafted long ago by the elves, and had been offered to her as a place to lay her head when she needed rest. So long as she showed her dedication to the Legion, she would have anything she desired from the doomed mortal world. Her door opened without warning, and in stepped a large satyr woman, her plumpness hidden under a dress of fel-green leaves. Cynthia frowned at her unannounced entry. “You’re early, hmm,” she said unamused. The satyr grinned widely, showing her sharp teeth behind her lips. “Apologies, mistress Blackmane,” she satyr grumbled, “When you said you had a present for me, I was overjoyed! I came over as quick as my feet could carry me!”

“Hooves, Letraxia,” Cynthia corrected rudely, hoping to prick the satyr’s intolerably cheerful demeanor. “You have hooves, hmm?” Letraxia waved a hand dismissively. “Hooves, yes, that’s what I said. Now, what is this gift you’ve got for me, eh?” Cynthia motioned with her hand, and an image of a young girl, messy auburn hair draped down her face, nearly covering her grey eyes, appeared in the air beside her. The satyr clapped her hands excitedly, licking her lips. “Yes! I love it! She’s just so precious, isn’t she?”

Cynthia let the image hang in the air for a time, then snuffed it out with another flourish of her hand. “You are to care for the child in your home. No harm must come to her, hmm. She is too invaluable to let any harm come to her.” Letraxia composed herself and placed her hand on her chest, swearing, “I promise not to hurt her, mistress. Oh, this is going to be such fun! When will you deliver her?” Cynthia clasped her hands together. “She’s already on her way. Now remember, Letraxia, her parents will come for her, hmm. And what do you do with people who try to take your children from you?”

Letraxia’s body rippled with fel magic she grew several times her size, her height reaching to the ceiling, and her girth to either wall of the massive bedroom. Her eyes pulsed, an angry verdant flame alight in each. She yelled at the top of her lungs, “I SMASH THEM!” Cynthia smiled, pleased. “Yes,” she said smugly, “You shall smash them, Letraxia. You shall indeed, hmmm…”

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